Parent child relationships are at the heart of Jeff Nichol’s sci-fi adventure Midnight Special, rendered with a little more humanity and heart than is common for the genre.
The film begins in media res. Stoical father Roy (Michael Shannon) is on the run from the FBI and an extreme religious sect, attempting to protect his supernaturally gifted young son. As events unfold we learn more about this unusual child, his abilities, and the lives of the people around him.
Michael Shannon and Kirsten Dunst are as always, immensely watchable as Alton’s desperate yet resilient parents, and Joel Edgerton puts in an understated, gruff performance as Lucas, an outsider who is fully convinced of the importance of the cause, and acts as a mouthpiece for the audience.
Apparently inspired by the films of John Carpenter (something like Halloween’s eerie piano score crops up from time to time) if Midnight Special is anything, it’s aware of its heritage. Close Encounter of the Third Kind and E.T. are clear forerunners. Bright blue lights abound, and even the costumes feel like they’ve been lifted out of an ‘80s movie. Fully committed to its aesthetic, the film will certainly ring nostalgic for a particular generation of Spielberg fans.
But most remarkable about the film is its lack of exposition. No prior events are ever handed to us on a plate. Everything is on a need to know basis, and Jeff Nichols makes a point of disposing of anything that might curb the film’s sense of realism. But at times, the film gets caught up in this methodology to detriment of its narrative. A good film limits excessive exposition anyway; Nichols hampers his film by placing excessive emphasis on naturalistic subtlety.
There’s also a sense that in its second half, Midnight Special lapses into ‘that sci-fi movie’ we’ve seen before: lengthy close up shots of tear-strewn faces as they give each other meaningful, final nods to a mounting overture.
Not, as some might have it, genre-defying, but genre reinforcing, Midnight Special is ripe for a sequel. And, why not – there’s nothing to hate, and plenty to admire in this moving tale of mutual protection between an inter-dimensional father and son.
|What||Midnight Special "A sci-fi thriller with rare heart and humanity"|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
08 Apr 16 – 08 Jun 16, Times vary according to cinema
|Price||£varies depending on cinema|
|Website||Click here to go to the film's IMDB page|