Review by Gordon Justesen
Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Jaeden Lieberher, Sam
Director: Jeff Nichols
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 112 Minutes
Release Date: June 21, 2016
“You don’t have to worry about me.”
“I like worrying about you.”
“You don’t have to anymore.”
“I’ll always worry about you, Alton. That’s the deal.”
Writer/director Jeff Nichols is precisely the kind of storyteller that we need so much more of in today’s cinema. His previous films, Take Shelter and Mud, are vastly original pieces in addition to being two of the best films of this decade. And now with Midnight Special, Nichols continues his brilliant streak with what may just be his most fantastic effort to date.
Evoking the feeling of early films by Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter (a mixture of Sugarland Express, Close Encounters and Starman), this is low key sci-fi storytelling on a major scale. It’s been a long while since I’ve seen a film with such a rich mysterious quality that hooks you from the opening frame right up to it’s final moments. It doesn’t spell everything out right away, but lets it all unfold in the absolute most perfect form...thus making for a most rewarding film going experience.
The story opens with two men, Roy (Michael Shannon) and Lucas (Joel Edgerton) on the run with a product of most extreme value in their possession. That happens to be Roy’s son, Alton (Jaden Lieberher), a boy with unique powers that have become of interest to both the federal government and a religious cult, the latter of which Roy and Alton were previously living amongst.
According to the cult and it’s leader, Calvin (Sam Shepherd), Alton is their personal savior who will protect them from an apoclayptic event that is to take place in a few days. The federal government, who have dispatched an NSA agent named Sevier (Adam Driver), are interested in Alton’s gift for other reasons. Roy, meanwhile, is only concerned with getting his son to a specific location, one that the boy know he has to be at and, if reached, will free him of any harm from the cult and the government.
The filmmaking and storytelling on display here are both on stunning, extravagant levels. Jeff Nichols illustrates his massive strengths in these areas in ways that can simply be described as purely masterful. The tense tone of the film, astoundingly emulated by the pulsating music score from David Wingo (also in the style of John Carpenter) is a key factor in how it grips the viewer.
In addition to being a suspenseful sci-fi piece, Midnight Special is also a most touching depiction story of a father and son bond. Michael Shannon, one of our most treasured living actors, delivers one of his most strongest acting efforts to date as the determined father who harbors nothing but undeniable love for his gifted young son and his best interest. All of that is displayed by Shannon in a remarkably understated fashion.
There is never a false note in Midnight Special. As mentioned earlier, this is one of the most rewarding movie experiences to come around in quite some time. It unfortunately didn’t get much exposure during its extremely limited theatrical run, but I urge everyone out there who is hungry for a film of rich and original value to discover and pass this movie along to everyone they know. If anything it’s a film that deserves such a rebirth.
This Blu-ray release from Warner is hands down one of the most visually splendid HD presentations to be put out this year. A great deal of the film takes place at night, but the detail is alive and well throughout the entire presentation. The film’s visual effects look nothing short of tremendous and director Nichols’ use of widescreen photography is tremendously strong and vibrant throughout. A most dynamic presentation!
The film is actually more a dialogue oriented piece, but it does have areas which the DTS HD mix takes grand advantages of, with jaw-dropping results. The aforementioned music score sounds nothing short of astonishing in its every note. And there are some surprising bursts of visual effects sequences that work the surround sound element to astounding effect. Dialogue delivery is terrifically clear and succinct, balancing out amazingly well with all the other aural proceedings.
This Blu-ray release from Warner features two primary featurettes; one called “Origins”, which takes a look at five of the film’s key characters in vignette form. The second is called “The Unseen World”, which reveals Jeff Nichols personal connection to the story.
I can’t deliver enough praise towards Midnight Special, which is thus far the best film I’ve seen in 2016. I certainly hope it garners the cult following it deserves. One thing’s for sure, Jeff Nichols is a filmmaker whose future work is truly something all film lovers should look forward to!