(M) Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst
A media-wide alert has been sent out across the United States to draw the public’s attention to the abduction of Alton Meyer (Jaeden Lieberher). He has been taken from a secluded cult in the heart of Texas called The Farm. This isolated group worships this eight-year-old boy because he has provided them with supernatural messages and has proven to have extraordinary powers. A former member of The Farm is the primary focus of this abduction and he is the master-mind behind the disappearance of this gifted young man.
Roy (Michael Shannon) is not just a former member of the cult, but he is also Alton’s blood father. This desperate act is in response to Alton’s poor health and urgently helping his son to get to a predestined location. Roy must allude the cult from the recapturing his son, but he comes to find out that this group was the least of his concerns.
Outside of the remote compound, the US government has been made aware of Alton’s abilities and would like to study the talented boy. Paul Sevier (Adam Driver) from the National Security Agency has been studying Alton from a distance and sees this abduction as an opportunity to get in touch with this formerly cult-bound family. His goal is to unearth the mystery of this young man’s talents and make sense of his desired destination.
In the tradition of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Signs, Jeff Nichols (Mud) writes and directs an endearing film that balances familial bonds, science fiction and dramatic intrigue. Known for his compelling independent films, Nichols manages to get excellent performances out of some of the hottest acting talent in Hollywood at the moment.
Michael Shannon and Joel Edgerton (The Great Gatsby) have managed to find their way into a bevy of big productions, but their return to their independent roots provides them with the right platform to show that they can be strong central characters.
Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) shows that he has acting abilities that are not reliant on The Force and Kirsten Dunst (Spider-man) makes a welcomed return back to the big screen after her successful run on Fargo. Interestingly, this amazing cast is the support cast for Jaeden Lieberher (St. Vincent) who seems to reprise his role as General Electric’s “The Boy Who Beeps.” He is a talent to watch for the future, but this film is more in the sum of its parts than it is based on his performance.
Though the film does have a wealth of acting talent, the driving force behind Midnight Special is the twisted familial journey being wrapped in a science fiction adventure. Nichols shows the centre of this journey with the sacrifices that are essential to balance out the willingness to allow parents to let their children go. While showing the basic family elements he gives them a fresh twist with subtle, but compelling sci-fi components.
The science fiction is not supported by innovative effect ideas, but they suffice for the type of film Nichols delivers. This is where it is reminiscent of Close Encounters with its reliance on suspense more than high level effects. The primary weakness in the film comes down to the independent nature of the conclusion and Nichols’ unwillingness to tie off the loose ends the story. The film is satisfying and entertaining on multiple levels, but will frustrate some viewers with the less than satisfying ending.
What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?
What would you do for the sake of your family? Midnight Special was an extreme case of sacrificial love of a father for a son. This story line begs the question of how far a father would go for the sake of his family. At the heart of the Bible’s is the the ultimate example of a Father’s love for his children which culminates in the cross of Christ. Take the time to read one of the Gospels to understand what true sacrifice really means.
- What is sacrificial love? (John 15:13, Ephesians 5:25)
- What should we do in difficult times? (John 16:33, Philippians 4:6-7)
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