Saturday, August 13, 2016
The Midnight Special (2016) **1/2
The Midnight Special, a film compared to Spielberg classics like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. upon its release, feels more like a slightly above average X-Files episode. The film is about a boy with psychic gifts who is on the run with his father (Michael Shannon) and his highway patrolman friend/guardian angel (Joel Edgerton). A religious sect believes the boy transmits messages from God. Meanwhile, the government is also interested in the boy (for drone warfare or something). Director Jeff Nichols tried to compensate for the cliche elements of the script with iconic performances from Shannon and Edgerton, but both are more opaque than memorable. Shannon and Edgerton kept their characters too remote for there to be any emotional resonance. Even when Kirsten Dunst appears as the mother the film never quite hits the right note. Adam Driver also appears as a sympathetic NSA analyst. Spielberg's great strength was establishing an emotional connection with the audience while dazzling them with special effects, a style few of his disciples have perfected. Unfortunately, the conclusion felt routine and underwhelming. In saying that, The Midnight Special is not a bad film, there's a modicum of suspense to sustain the narrative - along with some exceptional cinematography.