Midnight Special review: A dark, extra terrestrial treat from Jeff Nichols featuring another stand-out performance from Michael Shannon.
It’s hard to believe that Midnight Special is only Jeff Nichols‘ fourth film. Following his last two hugely acclaimed efforts Take Shelter and Mud, the talented filmmaker switches genres to sci-fi with a movie that captivates from the off.
Featuring Michael Shannon once again in the drivers seat, the film opens to a father (Shannon) and son (Jaeden Lieberher) taking to the road, apparently on the run. The police, and members of an organised sect (headed by the wonderful Sam Shephard) are on their tail, but Shannon’s character, Ron, has enlisted the help of his friend and State Trooper Lucas (Joel Edgerton), to guide them to a special place that will fulfill his son’s destiny.
As with his previous films, Nichols also scripts this intense sci-fi/ drama. With obvious nods to the work of Steven Spielberg – in particular the obvious Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and E.T., as well as Starman, that excellent Jeff Bridges film from the 1980s, Nichols takes us on a journey that deals with both supernatural activity, and at the same time focusing on more closer family matters – and the two intertwine beautifully. Shannon, as always, is excellent, once again proving that his work with Nichols is up there with his best. With Edgerton also joining proceedings – he’ll also work with Nichols on his next film, Loving – and Kirsten Dunst supporting in her best role for years, we’re looking at a dark, truly unique, powerful piece featuring near flawless performances that stands out against the competition. Adam Driver also appears as an NSA expert, and provides the film with most of its welcomed comedic beats.
With elements of dark horror as well as science fiction and constant metaphors tied with family loss and tragedy – very much like his former work, Nichols has at the same time constructed an almost genre-less piece, but one that truly commands and deserves your attention.
Possibly Nichols’ most accessible piece, though one some fans may struggle with due to its more plodding nature, Midnight Special is an absolute must. Fantastical, though genuinely grounded in its approach, the film is truly wonderful and truly special.
Midnight Special review by Paul Heath, Berlin Film Festival, 2016.
Midnight Special will be released on the 18th March, 2016 in the U.S. and 8th April, 2016 in the UK.