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Midnight Special, Spielbergian Sci-Fi With An Indie Twist


Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Jaeden Lieberher

Directed by
Jeff Nichols

He’s not like us.


A father and son flee the confines of a cult and the US government, both seeking the boy for his special abilities.


Midnight Special is a science fiction drama/mystery with the scope and feel of a smaller independent film. Gone are the giant action sequences that litter much of modern science fiction films. You won’t be seeing Superman and General Zod tearing through Metropolis here. The film is much more deliberate in its pacing and tone. It strives to tell a more concise and linear tale while maintaining meaningful stakes. Though the movie slows down as the action takes a back seat to the sense of mystery, I found it engrossing in its own right.
I’d often heard this film uttered in film critic circles without really knowing anything about it myself. When I found it available to watch on my local on-demand service, I took a chance and found myself pleasantly surprised with the end result. The plot is part Logan and The Road in its road trip aspect. It’s sci-fi effects harken to the genre’s golden age; think the cover of an Asimov’s Science Fiction or Clarkesworld. The movie’s genre storytelling is modeled after Spielberg’s classics meaning there is a sense of awe and discovery when peeling back the layers of the mystery.
Midnight Special is one of those films that does not fill in all the blanks. By the end of the film, you might have more questions than answers. This is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the general lack of information spelled out for the viewer keeps it light on exposition and drives the overall mystique to the plot. On the other hand, some members of the audience will not feel as satisfied when the final film credits end. If you like to have all your questions answered by the final resolution, this might not be a movie for you.
There’s some top tier acting talent in this film and they all bring their A game. However, we aren’t given a whole lot of backstory on any of the characters. Scenes are well acted, but I can’t help but wonder if I’d have had a stronger connection to the characters if I’d known a little bit more about them. Backstories are usually filled in with a few sentences of dialogue for each character which can be frustrating for people wanting to more.

This was not a mind bending, genre-defining piece of filmmaking, but it left me satisfied enough that I would watch it again or recommend it to other people. If it can be helped, go into the movie with as little information as possible. I think this will enhance the experience and enjoyment. I know it did for me. 

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