Midnight Special (2016)

raigraphixs

Distinguished Member
Sci-fi thriller from Mud and Take Shelter writer/director Jeff Nichols.

Michael Shannon, Jaeden Lieberher, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Bill Camp, Scott Haze, Paul Sparks, and Sam Shepard.

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Drax1

Distinguished Member
Looking good. I had this on my 2015 must see list, but March isn't so long to wait. The director's got a good pedigree, and that cast line up will do nicely. Now in top 10 must see's for next year...
 

Drax1

Distinguished Member
Some review highlights -

Little White Lies:

Aside from the odd bit of casting news, Midnight Special has been shrouded in secrecy since filming commenced in early 2014, and indeed it is best to go into the film with as little prior knowledge of the plot and characters as possible. If this review is light on spoilers, however, it’s only because attempting to distil the key scenes into a few words would be an utterly futile exercise (a series of exclamatory reaction gifs would be far more illuminating). Nichols is the kind of director who favours the slow burn over the instant payoff, meaning that the high-tension, low-drama manner in which his modern-day parable unfolds makes the third-act fireworks even more dazzling.

Variety
Serving up hefty human insight in place of third-act gimmickry, and reuniting him with “Take Shelter” star Michael Shannon, Nichols’ impressively restrained yet limitlessly imaginative fourth feature takes its energy from an ensemble of characters who hold fast to their convictions, even though their beliefs remain shrouded in mystery for much of the journey.

The less audiences know going in, the better, though that could backfire on a movie without a big enough star to attract the crowds it would need to inspire a word-of-mouth following. With only a TV orange alert by way of exposition, “Midnight Special” relies on the ability of an intelligent audience to make sense of what is happening, understanding that even writer-director Nichols probably doesn’t have an explanation for everything.

The Telegraph:

It’s typical of this director’s withholding style that at one stage we’re fully expecting to hear a gunshot ring out against a nocturnal panorama of city lights, but do not. Without a telltale mobile phone in sight, Midnight Special also conceals for a long time that it’s even set in the present day, restoring the textures of 1970s and 1980s Spielbergiana with beautifully simple images, such as Alton reading comic-books by torchlight on the car’s back seat, or a classroom turned into a makeshift interrogation HQ.
 

bash

Well-known Member
This looks great, looks like I'll be checking this out at the cinema in April :)

I do like me a faux 80s movie feel ala The Guest and It Follows.
 

Drax1

Distinguished Member
Looks like this will be tonight's Screen Unseen, for those of you living near an Odeon who'd like to preview Midnight Special for a fiver...

Odeon Screen Unseen
Am a bit torn on this. This is easily one of my most anticipated films of the year, Screen Unseen only costs £5, and I'm getting it 10 or so days early. The kicker is, my local has it on a pretty small screen, and more often than not seems to have a very high proportion of idiots who want to chat throughout the film. It's ALWAYS my last choice venue wise.
Any ideas guys? Does the Screen Unseen thing tend to attract more of a film connoisseur, or is it typically full of loud thrifty types, who just want a cheap night out?
 

Drax1

Distinguished Member
So I plumped for a preview showing of this at Odeon Unseen. An absolute bargain at £5 too!
It was less than half full at the screening, but once the BBFC title was displayed, there was a lot of excitement - people obviously hoping it would be this.
It's a difficult film to discuss in depth, as so many elements constitute spoilers. For anyone who has seen the trailers, it's not revealing much to say it's a road movie of sorts, with Michael Shannon and Jaeden Lieberher on the run from the authorities. It hits the ground running, and immediately launches you into the story from it's opening scenes.
It's not a film that spoon feeds things to you, and works all the better for the slow reveal of it's secrets. And it certainly doesn't feel the need to explain every last detail, or tie things up in a neat bow either. The film's overall air of mystery carries things along, making them very much lesser issues.
There are several very impressive set pieces, which often come out of nowhere, and disappear as fast. Short and impactful.
Jeff Nichols' direction is very impressive overall, and after Take Shelter and Mud, I will watch for his next project with great interest. There are elements and themes here that Nichols borrows from with both of these, but the material here is generally quite a departure from his previous work. As much as it plays to the film's events, the predominantly darkly lit scenes in the first half, took a little getting used to. Again, as the film progresses, the necessity for them is well justified.

I'll be very interested to see people's reaction to the finale, which I'd imagine, some people may find polarising. Personally, I thought it absolutely worked, but it did remind me a lot of another film look wise, which I'll spoiler at the end.

It's extremely difficult to choose from the leads in terms of performance. Michael Shannon is typically good as Lieberner's gruff, but protective father. He gets a certain scene where it's dialogue free, but the look he conveys, says a thousand words. The mark of a quality actor.
Joel Edgerton (fast becoming one of my favourite actors) is equally good, as an ally along for the ride, whilst Kirsten Dunst shows she has A LOT more than Mary-Jane to her.
Adam Driver's role as an NSA guy, as good as it is, seems a little bit like 'shooting fish in barrel' casting. He showcased his talents more as TFA's Kylo Ren.
Nichols reuses the great Sam Shepherd after his stint in Mud, but unfortunately, he has less to do here.

The score is note perfect for the themes here, and seem to deliberately homage John Carpenter's best stuff.

Anyone who's a fan of the recent faux 80's revival that seems to be going on with the likes of Super 8, The Guest, It Follows and Cold in July will certainly find plenty to enjoy here.
My favourite film of 2016 after Creed.


An easy 8/10 (maybe more once I've slept on it)

The ending -
If I hadn't seen Tomorrowland, the designs used here would have been eye popping, but coming nearly a year later, unfortunately for Midnight Special, comparisons are inevitable. The VFX work still looked good though, especially for a much lower budget movie

[Spoiler
 
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bruce-leroy

Distinguished Member
Great review Mr. Hugo Drax. ;) I didn't even know about this film until I happened upon the trailer recently. It looks really good, which reminds me that Ive wanted to watch Take Shelter for a while!
 

theprestige

Well-known Member
I liked Mud. I've yet to see Take Shelter. Looks like i'll have to watch this! Thanks for the heads up, lads.
 

Kopster

Active Member
I liked Mud. I've yet to see Take Shelter. Looks like i'll have to watch this! Thanks for the heads up, lads.
Personally i thought Take Shelter was the better then Mud (which i thought was good), great performance once again by Michael Shannon.
 

domtheone

Distinguished Member
Late to the party with this one, having just, litterally, watched the trailer (very good) in this thread.

Think a trip to the cinema is on the cards.

Mud was excellent. Will have to seek out Take Shelter (Jessica Chastain:love:) now too.
 

Drax1

Distinguished Member
Anybody else caught this yet? I'll be interested to hear people's thoughts on the last 10 minutes or so...
 

barnaby jones

Distinguished Member
Ok so saw this last night and tbh I'm still not sure what to make of it. It was very deliberately paced and has a very simple straight forward sort of plot, almost annoyingly so. The performances are uniformly excellent, especially the little boy at the centre of the film. The music was atmospheric and the conclusion was fairly satisfying, I think ultimately I just wanted more, what's there is great, there's just no depth or detail in any of it. You can see Jeff Nichols favourite unusual father/son relationship theme running throughout and it really holds the film together.
I'd have to see it again to decide if I really liked it but at the moment it's a 7/10
 

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