Jeff Nichols is becoming increasingly respected in the film world. His films are usually set in the American mid-west, and he has such deep and unique characters that tell very compelling stories that attract A-list actors. You might know him from his previous film: Mud that officially rebooted Matthew McConnaghey’s career. His most recent film: Midnight Special doesn’t disappoint with its ambitious plot and bold directing that have many comparing him to Spielberg.
Midnight Special is a story completely shrouded in mystery. Because I enjoyed how Nichols slowly fed us information, I will try and keep my exposition to a minimum. The story opens up in a motel, the news is on and it is telling the story of how a boy has been kidnapped by two men. We see that the people watching this television in this motel room are the two kidnappers named Roy (Michael Shannon) and Lucas (Joel Edgerton), the kid they have with them is Alton (Jaden Lieberher), but he doesn’t seem to be struggling at all, in fact, the boy seems to want to stay with Roy and Lucas. Investigating the kidnapping is a group of uniformed men who don’t seem to be either the police or PIs; they are looking desperately for Alton, and their leader (Sam Shepard) claims to be his father, but as we later find out, Roy is Alton’s realfather. And as the story moves along, we find out that Alton is not an ordinary kid, in fact there might be something supernatural about him. The government soon gets involved and is represented by an NSA analyst named Paul (Adam Driver). Things escalate as Roy, Lucas, and Alton are on the run from these two groups.
Many people will be reminded of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, in the way that Nichols holds back as much as he can until the end where he overwhelms us with a wondrous revelation. However, I have to say that as cool as the ending was, it really wasn’t as satisfactory as the film was building it up to be. It’s similar to what happened to J.J. Abrams when he also tried to emulate a bit of Spielberg in Super 8. However, I feel that judging the conclusion too heavily would be unfair because the real art is in how gritty and spooky Nichols had the rest of the movie feel. And then there are the characters, who just like in Nichols’ other films are incredibly complex and intriguing.
The cast that Nichols assembled is an impressive one that relishes the great script and directing. Michael Shannon gives a great performance as a man trying to mask his emotions, but be a comforting father at the same time. Joel Edgerton is great as a conflicted Lucas who doesn’t know where his moral loyalty lies. And then Adam Driver did a phenomenal job as well; you absolutely buy into his geeky smart analyst. The rest of the cast is rounded out with the likes of Sam Shepard and Kirsten Dunst who both hold their own very well.
In the end, Midnight Special is a gripping film that has you biting your lip as you try to figure out what is what and who is who. Despite a bit of a let down in the ending, this film is a true revelation itself.