By Adam Ray Palmer
This film debuted at Sundance last month and now it visits the 66th Berlin Film Festival for another run of press.
Midnight Special stars an impressively talented cast including Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst and fresh-faced Jaeden Lieberher.
This film began the second day of Berlinale’16 after what was an atmospheric first day – did the buzz continue with Midnight Special?
Midnight Special tells the story of a father and son, along with a friend of the father’s, who go on the run. Once the father and his buddy learn the child possesses special powers, they know they need to keep the boy out of the hands of the law.
Michael Shannon plays the father of the gifted child and once again stars in a Jeff Nichols picture. This is Jeff’s fourth production and Shannon has had a hand in them all. Michael’s character in Midnight Special is the one we most connect with. He is the doting father that will do anything for his son’s protection.
On the flip side, Roy’s (Shannon) friend Lucas (Edgerton) is the mysterious yet heroic character. He has no relation to the child yet is more than willing to follow his beliefs. The child, Alton (Jaeden), has revealed his vision to Lucas that only becomes clear to the audience right at the end. For the entirety of the film, the viewers are in limbo to what actually awaits the protagonists.
This proves an interesting dynamic to the plot and keeps the audience on the edge of their seats - we have no idea what way the movie will turn. Once the mother, Sarah (Kirsten Dunst), enters the fray half way through the film; we learn significantly more about the narrative as more details are released through characters’ exchanges.
Nichols stated that he had huge influences from E.T and Close Encounters of the Third Kind for this movie and you can tell. It is very reminiscent of the former. Jaeden is very much the E.T character that needs to find his ‘happy place’ (I don’t want to ruin it). We only learn this sub-plot in the final third of the movie. The opening third sets up the film brilliantly. It’s mysterious, whimsical and pulsating at times.
The middle part to the film drops off a little. Nichols needs to release a little more information about the plot but that means the film needs to slow down for these sequences. On a positive note for Jeff, he introduces Adam Driver’s character who is a breath of fresh air to what is quite frankly an oddball road movie. Driver’s character gives the audience rest bite to catch their breath before we are on the movie again with the runaways. Adam’s character is amusing and awkward giving the film another dimension to connect with.
On the whole, Midnight Special does exactly what it says on the tin. It is special for sure and best to be watched a little tipsy at midnight. Maybe not the latter but the film certainly is an interesting concept, even if it is very similar to E.T. It’s definitely worth checking out – it’ll have you entertained for the majority of it’s run time.
Cineroom’s Rating: 3 Stars
Midnight Special is released in selected UK cinemas on 8th April – Certificate 15