Midnight Special (2016)

12:37 PM

He's Not Like Us.
This review may contain spoilers.
 Midnight Special is directed and written by Jeff Nichols (Mud, Take Shelter) and stars Michael Shannon (Man of Steel, Take Shelter), Joel Edgerton (Warrior, The Gift), Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man,  Melancholia), Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Inside Llewyn Davis) and Jaeden Lieberher (St.Vincent, Aloha). "A father and son go on the run after the dad learns his child possesses special powers". Midnight Special is an independent film at heart but has a $18 million budget which is quite high for an indie - is this budget well spent or is this a failed attempt at making indie films go big budget? 

I really hate to say this but I am sitting on the fence with Midnight Special. It has been almost 24 hours since I saw it and my thoughts still haven't come together - I can't tell whether I liked it or didn't like it. There were elements that were very strong but on the other hand, nothing really stood out and I don't think there's anything special about the film. I can argue both ways - this could easily be a positive review but could also easily be a negative one - this has to be one of the first times where my thoughts on a film are really clouded. I actually saw this film as part of Odeon Screen Unseen - the same way I saw It Follows and Inside Out. Out of the 3 screen unseens I have been to, this is no where near as good as Inside Out but also no where near as bad as It Follows. 

The one thing I can't deny about Midnight Special is that it is terrifically acted. The performances in this film are very very strong. I was most surprised by Joel Edgerton as it took me a while to actually click that it was him - this shows how good his performance was as the actor got lost in the role and became the character. Jayden Lieberher is another fantastic child actor - both him and Jacob Tremblay are proving that child actors aren't as annoying and terrible as they used to be. The only problem with Lieberher's performance is that I didn't really connect with or feel anything from his character which could have been a choice made by the director. Michael Shannon was also very good in the film - at times I thought his general look was more fitting for TV but that doesn't stop his performance from being very strong. Kirsten Dunst only comes in towards the end of the film but she does a very good job. Adam Driver was probably the best in this film though, he really showcased his diversity as an actor as this was nothing like his performance in The Force Awakens. I was really impressed with Driver and his character was quite likeable and personable. 

The story for the film is a little confusing at first but now I've read up on it, I think it all makes a little more sense. I did find the film quite exciting and the whole speculation about what was so special about the boy was great. However, once the reveal came (everyone who has seen the trailer will already know this), you wanted even more explaining. I don't think Midnight Special did a very good job in explaining Alton's powers and how he got to earth - for all I know, this may have been explained in dialogue but if so, that means you have to be paying very close attention to the film to understand it. I didn't find the story as much of a slow burn as people have said -I thought it was always moving along - it only became slow towards the end of the film. The best way to describe Midnight Special is ET meets Tomorrowland. I thought the story ended up being very similar to ET - its all about getting the boy to go home back to his planet and then at the end, his planet is almost an exact replica of Tomorrowland - even the field he is transported from is straight out of that movie. 

I do think $18 million was a little much to spend on this film. The visual effects are good but they aren't a big part of the film so other than the talent involved, I don't know why the budget is so high. Midnight Special definitely feels like a small film and could almost be a TV movie - the way it is shot felt like the style of TV rather than the big screen - for a Sci-Fi, it wasn't very cinematic. 

In summary, I just don't get the rave with Midnight Special - there are too many questions left unanswered and the film left me not having much to say. I would call it forgettable. The performances are great and the story is pretty entertaining. Midnight Special is definitely a sophisticated and well made film but I can't rave about it or recommend it to you - I can't even explain a reason for that. Maybe with time, my thoughts will become clearer and I'll add to this review but for now, Midnight Special doesn't really live up to its name - it's nothing special but still a pretty solid film. 

3 STARS
C+

What did you think of MIDNIGHT SPECIAL? Could you explain the hype to me? - COMMENT BELOW

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