Midnight Special: A Review by Nate Hill


It took me a little time to figure out just which way Midnight Special was heading, but when the curtains finally part after a first and second act of metaphysical cloak and dagger mystery that reveals scant details, the final punch is a payoff worth waiting for. Dark, moody, withdrawn ambience guides you into this story of young boy Alton( Jaeden Lieberher) possessing apparent otherworldly abilities and ruthlessly protected by two men played by Joel Egerton and Michael Shannon. Shannon is a consistently brilliant actor who, come to think of it, is the best embodiment of brooding darkness I can think of, and his presence helps to ground what could have easily been an Amblin style romp into something far more serious. The film opens with a chaotic nocturnal manhunt, as Alton is apparently abducted by these two from a creepy cult led by a pent up Sam Shepherd, and carried off into the night. The FBI swoops in to lay the hammer down and spreads a statewide dragnet across the area, desperate to locate him for god knows what agenda. Shannon is the boy’s birth father and feels that he is meant for some.. other purpose, the specifics of which elude him, and us, for a long time. That’s the trick though, isn’t it? To conceal your ace in the hole, the most tantalizing elements of your story, until well into the eleventh hour, taking everyone’s breath when the clouds do finally part (in this case, quite literally) and rewarding patience with hard earned spectacle. Along for the ride are Kirsten Dunst as Shannon’s ex wife and Adam Driver as a government analyst who’s sharp enough to have some idea of what’s really going on. That’s the thing with these situations in which something outside our normal field of knowledge occurs: the natural human response usually falls into a few frequent and predictable categories, in this case the bumbling, overhyped Feds who think they run the universe, and the blindly faithful zealots who foolishly think they understand it. And as per, a few intrepid individuals with a personal connection to the anomaly, and a capacity for abstract thought, persevere and live to give our race a fleeting good name. When the third act revelations do come, something special and kind of cinematically rare (these days anyway) happens: we feel a genuine sense of wonder. I’ll say no more, but it’s spectacular and blows the lid off the brooding two thirds we’ve just anxiously sat through. Not to say those two thirds aren’t good, they’re an ominous extended chase sequence set to a thumping electronic score that lays down a dark and mysterious carpet of mood and narrative trailing off somewhere into the night. Terrific stuff. Oh and fun fact: this is the first ever in flight movie I’ve seen, on the first commercial flight I’ve been on in my life. 


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