Staring contest with the Iceman.
I had no idea what MIDNIGHT SPECIAL was about before I went to see it in-theaters. I knew it was a suspense flick, I knew it had a sci-fi theme, and I knew the hypnotic Michael Shannon (MAN OF STEEL, BOARDWALK EMPIRE) was the lead. About fifteen minutes into the film, I knew I had made the right choice for a Saturday afternoon.
Written and directed by Jeff Nichols (MUD, TAKE SHELTER), the audience steps into MIDNIGHT RUN “in media res” (a narrative that begins, not at the beginning of a story, but somewhere in the middle) during what appears to be a pair of fugitives preparing to depart from a motel room with a goggled young boy in-tow and almost piloting from the backseat, and played by Jaeden Lieberher (ST. VINCENT, THE CONFIRMATION). Dropping into a plot at the beginning of a film can be jarring for the viewer, but this movie unravels at a surprisingly satisfying rate. Details came frequent enough to keep me engaged, but not faster than I needed to extrapolate the storyline, and it showcased the critical elements in a subtle, palpable manner.
Adding to the film’s charm is the tasteful level of science-fiction. The young man at the center of the government’s interest is gifted with abilities mysterious and fantastic, making him a high-level target for federal agents and cultists alike. In an effort to ensure they boy’s safety, Shannon and his co-star, Joel Edgerton (WARRIOR, THE GIFT) give everything they can to keep him away from the authorities, and in doing so, make you realize you’re rooting for the kidnappers halfway through the film, and you’re ok with it. And the kid’s powers? Presented in the an attractive cocktail of live-action and CGI special-effects. Even the large-scale effects draw you in with simplicity, like maybe you just saw an uplifting TED talk video-demonstration hosted by sheepish wild-card Kylo Ren, aka Adam Driver (STAR WARS EPISODE VII, GIRLS).
However, MIDNIGHT SPECIAL could still be a great film even without all the CGI. Any given dialogue’s subtext alone would keep me watching this movie,–I could live without the glowing eyes, it was that good.
I will be buying it when its available, because I want to watch Michael Shannon compete with Liam Neeson again for the ‘World’s Best Dad Award.’