Midnight Special Blu-ray Review
Writer/director Jeff Nichols’ fourth feature takes a bigger budget and runs with grander ideas, delivering an imaginative, if familiar tribute to sci-fi classics of old.Reuniting Nichols with his actor-of-choice – Michael Shannon – for the third time, Midnight Special sees Shannon’s on-the-run dad taking flight with his seemingly kidnapped son, with both the authorities and a strange – and violent – cult looking to retrieve the boy. Nichols channels pure Steven Spielberg in delivering his ambitious thriller, not only the biggest budgeted studio-backed entry in his oeuvre, but also the only one really capable of being described as a genre piece. Attempting a dual homage to Close Encounters and E.T. there’s plenty of originality to the ostensibly unoriginal chase sci-fi thriller, which is driven by mood and style to become arguably greater than its mere narrative parts.Ultimately, it’s this ambitious stance which unravels the ending somewhat, as the more effects-driven elements unfold with less imagination than the mystery of the first half hinted at; the sheer scale of Nichols’ effort is unsustainable in terms of any conclusions – logical or otherwise. Still, the cast are universally excellent – Shannon his usual near-aneurism self, joined by Kristen Dunst, Adam Driver and Sam Shepard, with young newcomer Jaeden Lieberher standing out with surprising conviction for someone so young, and with another reliably strong performance from Joel Edgerton. Midnight Special may not quite hit the highs its mysterious premise hints at, but at least it aspires to greatness.
Picture QualityShot on film in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, Midnight Special certainly impresses visually
In many ways following the lead of JJ Abrams' Super 8, Nichols' shoots Midnight Special with a Spielbergian eye for sci-fi, delivering a visually dynamic, hugely stylish piece. Detail is very good indeed, promoting the textures in the clothing, skin and background environment, whilst a warm sheen of suitably filmic grain pervades the piece and gives it further richness. The colour scheme is strong, and well-defined, spotlighting certain striking hues when necessary, and black levels are deep but the sheer volume of inky depth does lead, not wholly surprisingly, to some fleeting banding which brings down an otherwise excellent video presentation.
Sound QualityMidnight Special is defined as much by its sound as its visuals
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track delivers in every respect, promoting dialogue up front and centre, clearly defined across the front and centre channels, whilst the effects bring the piece to life and the excellent score drives the heart behind it all. Effects range from background noises, car and traffic-related sounds, to ambient atmospherics that allow the environment to take life, all the way through to the more punchy jolts which will shake your entire room, carrying with them a weight of LFE influence which will surprise at every turn.
ExtrasA small smattering of extras prevents this disc from being completely bare-bones
Missing out on the short Featurettes that were on the US release, we instead get a selection of Cast and Crew Interviews.
VerdictA strong sci-fi offering from fresh up-and-coming filmmaker Jeff Nichols
Although it can't quite deliver on its promise, there's enough here to carry you along for a thrilling, intoxicating ride which warmly pays tribute to its Spielbergian inspiration. Good video and excellent audio leave the UK Region B-locked Blu-ray release impressive, and certainly worth checking out.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £14.99
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