By Adam Guy
Director: Jeff Nichols
Starring: Adam Driver, Kirsten Dunst, Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Paul Sparks, Scott Haze, Dana Gourrier, Bill Camp
For a science fiction film, the suspension of disbelief everything. When you’re creating a world with different rules to our own, or pushing the limits of the rules we already know, then you have to do it in a way that your audience will accept. You have to bring them with you. Otherwise you’ll be left with a room full of people looking around at each other trying to work out if they’re the only ones not buying what they’re being sold. Midnight Special is the kind of film that seems to balance on this line like it were a tightrope.
Midnight Special is an American science fiction film about an eight year old boy called Alton who has special powers. No one really knows what his powers mean or why he has them. There’s a cult who want to worship him. The US government want to steal him away so they can study him. And his father will do anything he can to help the boy workout what it all means. Nothing about this is particularly original. Nor are the revelations at the end of the film particularly insightful. What makes Midnight Special watchable is the way all this is put together. The father, Roy, is played by Michael Shannon, and he adds a sense of tired determination to his usual screen intensity. Joel Edgerton also works well as Roy’s old friend willing to do whatever he can to help. The choice of these two men, along with a stylish and subdued presentation, is what gives the film a legitimacy that the underlying plot alone could not achieve. But conversely, when the more fantastical aspects of the story do start to kick in, the fact that everything else is so understated and restrained almost makes these parts seem more jarring and out of place. For a film that’s more reminiscent in style and structure to No Country for Old Men than it is X-Men, suddenly watching streams of blue light pouring out of one of the characters eyes for the first time might be a little disconcerting.
Midnight Special tries to have us believe the unbelievable by using gritty tones and splintered dialogue. But while it’s glossy finish and famous cast do their best job of giving the film weight, it’s simplistic and slightly tired core concept still make it feel like little more than a feature length episode of The X-Files.
Watch the trailer: