Midnight Special Review
Is Alton Meyer a national threat, a saviour or something else entirely?
What is it that makes Alton Meyer so special that people are willing to kill to get a hold of him?Midnight Special opens up to the commentary from a television news broadcast detailing the disappearance of a young boy by the name of Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) and his kidnapper Roy (Michael Shannon) - who also happens to be his biological father. Under the cover of nightfall Roy, Lucas (Joel Edgerton) and Alton’s mother Sarah (Kirsten Dunst) drive across the state of Texas with Alton in the back seat deeply engrossed in his comics. Far from your average 8 year old boy, Alton is in possession of some very special abilities which is the reason why he is wanted not only by the FBI but also by ‘The Ranch’.
‘The Ranch’ is a devout religious sect who believe that Alton will lead them all to salvation on Judgement Day, which happens to be on 6th of March, four days from when we first meet our main three characters. The FBI believe that Alton may be a threat to national security and so call in Paul Sevier (Adam Driver) from the NSA to help decipher a set of coordinates and help locate the boy and his alleged kidnappers. With armed members of ‘The Ranch’ and the FBI desperate to get a hold of his son, Roy, Lucas and Sarah navigate their way over several hurdles in order to get Alton to safety.
Midnight Special is one of those films, in my opinion, that seems to work on every level. It’s not concerned with giving away endless amounts of detail and backstory to the characters, it just wants to tell you what happens over the course of four days and surprisingly, that doesn’t hinder the story at all. Written and directed by Jeff Nichols, Midnight Special is wonderfully simple in its execution. There isn’t a heavy focus on dialogue as it’s a case of less is more. The casting is faultless in delivering atmosphere and intensity with everyone giving top performances.
Nichols doesn’t rely on fancy visuals or overly stylish camera work and to a certain extent even the CGI appears to be sparingly used so that just enough is given away to keep you hooked until the very end. The music is all instrumental which compliments and intensifies what happens on screen without any distracting lyrics to get in the way of the story. The narrative is steady and extremely well paced throughout the entirety of the film, nothing seems pointless or unnecessary. There are a few unexpected moments in the narrative which work to keep it from becoming remotely predictable.
Beautifully understated performances from the entire cast help to create intensity and atmosphere.
Michael Shannon gives a faultless performance as Roy. Using his face as a means of communication rather than speech, Shannon conveys utter despair and pure devotion towards his character's son consistently throughout the film. Shannon’s intensity is used throughout the whole film and doesn’t let up for a second. There a brief moments when you can see the conflict Roy experiences between saving his son and his moral conscience. There is little conversation between the three adults trying to protect Alton but it is clear to see the understanding and appreciation they each have for one another purely through a look or a subtle nod. Joel Edgerton’s Lucas remains a mystery until the middle of the film but like with the rest of the cast, this doesn’t affect the way you emotionally invest with him or any of the other characters.
They are all likeable and from the very get go, it is clear that both Roy and Lucas care and love Alton to the point where they would die for him. Kirsten Dunst’s character is stripped of all glamour and glitz to play the role of Sarah, mother to Alton. Again - a very understated performance allowing her maternal emotion to take centre stage. Jaeden Lieberher is great in the role of Alton, who has an air and conviction about him that seems to command those around him without question or hesitation. Adam Driver takes on more of a secondary role as NSA agent Paul Sevier who is keen to understand what it is about Alton that makes him so special. In a reasonably small roll, Driver delivers a good performance which compliments the rest of the cast.
Midnight Special holds its cards close to its chest, giving you only what you need to know with a solid pay off at the end. I think that some people may find it frustrating that there isn’t really any backstory or explanation as to how the characters ended up in each of their own situations but if you try not to think about what happened before and what will happen after - and just take it how it comes, you will really, really enjoy this film. Personally, I can’t find any fault with Midnight Special - it might not be for everyone, but for me, it was brilliant.
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