Jeff Nichols, director of Take Shelter and Mud, brings us his latest film Midnight Special, a rather dull science fiction drama that stars long time collaborator Michael Shannon, alongside Joel Edgerton, Jaeden Lieberher, Kirsten Dunst, and Adam Driver. Shannon plays Roy Tomlin, a father who has just went on the run with his son Alton (Lieberher) after taking him from The Ranch, a religious community who have a vested interest in the unusual abilities of Alton. In addition to being pursued by members of The Ranch determined to bring Alton back, the U.S. Government are also hot on their heels after catching wind of Alton’s special nature. Aiding Roy in his venture is Lucas (Edgerton) a state trooper, and old friend of Roy’s.
Sadly Midnight Special is just a bit drab, and is the first disappointment I’ve experienced this year. Both Take Shelter and Mud are great films but Nichols latest is far from matching the qualities of his earlier work. It’s slow, plodding place prevents the story from gaining any momentum, and significant events are so few and far between that it’ll struggle to maintain your interest.
By far the most compelling part of the film is the first act, light on details and with an abundance of mystery it pulls you in as you wait to see what is so special about Alton, why the FBI want him, and why Roy is on the run with him. There is a slight John Carpenter vibe emanting from the opening scenes, with night time settings and a brooding score, it feels like something is about to go down. However it slowly starts to fizzle out and unfortunately the longer the film goes on, the less your likely to care as the secrets begin to unravel. Despite the performances from all involved the story just isn’t up to par with them, and when it is all said and done I had no emotion vested in any aspect of the film. The score is the most endearing part of proceedings, adapting to the tone and scenes of the film very well.
There’s not much to say about Midnight Special, it’s not a poorly made film but it just doesn’t do enough to maintain your attention and pull you into Roy’s task of getting Alton to safety. Jeff Nichol’s is a fantastic director, but this is far from the high bar he set for himself with previous efforts. Unless your an avid science fiction fan looking for a more grounded adventure it’s unlikely you’ll find much to enjoy here.