Culture Magazine

Movie Review – Midnight Special (2016)

By Manofyesterday

Director: Jeff Nicols

Stars: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Ezra Miller, Kirsten Dunst, Jaeden Lieberher

A child has special powers and he and his father go on the run while the government and a cult, who fear him and worship him respectively, chase after them.

I had high hopes for Midnight Special as, although it’s not based on a comic book, it is basically a superhero movie given that it deals with the themes of power and how people react to it. The film begins with a great deal of intrigue as we’re thrust in media res to a hotel room with a newscast playing on the tv about a boy who has been abducted. There’s something strange about Alton (Lieberher) but we don’t know yet, all we know is that his father, Roy, (Shannon) and friend, Lucas, (Edgerton) are the ones who have kidnapped him. The narrative moves to introduce the cult that seeks to worship the child, and the government who soon get involved for, it turns out, Alton has been able to intercept secret government broadcasts. These two factions are both trying to get their hands on the boy while Roy and Lucas are trying to get him to a mystery destination because…they have to?

That’s basically all the film offers. It’s vague intellectualism at its worst. It introduces a few themes but leaves the audience so misinformed that there’s nothing of substance here. Sure, it acts as a metaphor for parents having to deal with their children growing up, and it presents the two contrasting viewpoints on how to view someone with extreme power, but these are neither original ideas nor explored fully in the film.

Shannon gives his best pained looks as he fights to protect his son, and we’re drip-fed some information here and there but there’s nothing to hold onto. I never felt emotionally invested in the story because it never felt like there was a story. It feels like this film is the second act in a film, and it sorely misses the first and third acts. If there’s any meaning here then it’s all on the viewer to infer for themselves. The history the film hints at is interesting, and the future of the world at the climax of the film doubly so, but there’s no point to any of it. There’s simply no point to the film. The pacing drags and I was hoping that it would lead somewhere but it never does. The cinematography is murky, and the dull, droning monotony of the film is interspersed with some sci-fi effects that jolt the viewer from slumber.

Highly disappointed in this one and I’m quite frankly astonished that this has been getting such a good reception. It didn’t engage me on any level and left me feeling cold, so it’s a hard pass.


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