review//MIDNIGHT SPECIAL

Grade: A-

MIDNIGHT SPECIAL
Directed by Jeff Nichols
Starring Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst

Built with the same, affecting slow-burn as his previous films, Jeff Nichols' jump into studio films, Midnight Special, is a beautiful look at the sincerity of family and the fear of what's to come. Shot with a gorgeous darkness, the film purports to offer a subtle and raw realness to complete dexterity. While past Nichols films, like Mud and Take Shelter, offer clever drama, Midnight Special gets the added benefit of thrilling sci-fi moments that keep the audience guessing until the very end.

On the run from multiple facets of organized groups, including the US government, Roy (Michael Shannon) and Lucas (Joel Edgerton) take measures to the ultimate extreme in order to transport a young boy to a secretly disclosed location. A statewide manhunt is no match for the two, until a traffic accident leads Lucas to shoot a Texas state trooper. The stakes are heightened and for what? That is the exact question that toils every fiber of the rest of the film. The only answer is that Alton Meyer (Jaeden Lieberher) is an 8 year old with a certain set of powers that makes him an important entity.

Quickly, it's revealed that Alton is the source of an entire branch of people who believes he is a messiah, of sorts. Having lived with them for two years, Alton's revelations of codes and words, most usually delivered in different tongues, tips off the FBI, who join in the race to find the boy before something imminent occurs.

Across state lines and in the midst of otherworldly happenings, the day or two of this final trip for Alton proves all too consuming and all too captivating. The day of reckoning or judgement or homecoming is coming and there seems to be nothing anyone can do to stop it.

While the plot appeals to fast-paced summer blockbusters, Nichols never lets stereotypes lead the way, instead opting for a subtle, paced story that is just quiet enough to allow each moment of excitement to really fulfill their promise. There are enough edge-of-your-seat moments to satisfy any Speilberg fan, but it's laced with muted tones and a brilliant, steady score fit for an arthouse audience.

The performances are top notch, powered by Shannon, playing a father who will let nothing get in the way of his son's purpose. As Alton's mother, Kirsten Dunst gives a strong turn, brining to memory her awards-worthy turn in the similarly paced Melancholia. And, as Alton, Lieberher plays with a certain seriousness reserved for the best of young actors.

Brilliantly captured, Midnight Special leaves you with a dark melancholy, rich in intelligence and incredible storytelling. With big budget Hollywood summer flicks about to invade the big screens, do yourself a favor and enjoy the effects of a visionary director on a shoestring budget.

Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 1h 52min

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