Midnight Special, Movie Review

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midnightspecial.jpgMIDNIGHT SPECIAL (USA 2015) **
Directed by Jeff Nichols

Starring: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver

Review by Gilbert Seah

MIDNIGHT SPECIAL reunites director Jeff Nichols and actor Michael Shannon once again in a film dealing with an apocalyptic world. There is much to like and dislike about MIDNIGHT SPECIAL compared to TAKE SHELTER, but unfortunately, the former throws logic and reality to the wind. The plot and ending of MIDNIGHT SPECIAL is important to the enjoyment of the film and should not be revealed in my or any review, but it is sufficient to say that the ending should at least be a bit believable and not be totally absurd as in this case in terms of logic and possibility and also in terms of special effects. The ending is as if the special effects department was given an unlimited budge and the department spent the entire budget and more.

The film starts with a suspenseful abduction in which a man is wanted for the kidnapping of a child. It is all over the radio and the state in terms of an amber alert. Roy (Shannon) has fled a religious cult in rural Texas with his eight-year-old son Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), who possesses otherworldly powers. Roy’s accomplice and childhood friend, Lucas (Joel Edgerton sporting a very convincing Texan accent), a state trooper, helps to bring the boy to an undisclosed location on a specific date, during which a celestial and possibly world-changing event may occur.

There are a lot of points in the script (written by Nichols) that do not make sense. But of course, one can argue that a good thriller need not require good explanations as the Master of Suspense Alfred Hitchcock has proven many times in his Masterpieces. For example Richard Thornhill (Cary Grant) was hunted down by the organization in NORTH BY NORTHWEST though no reason was ever given. But MIDNIGHT SPECIAL thunders towards a needed explanation that when revealed, makes no sense whatsoever. The supporting character of Lucas could also be done way with, though character development-wise, it does bring a good perspective to the character of the lead, Roy.

But for me whose first profession is engineering, I can really annoyed when a story leaves too many unexplained loose ends. Among these are: “Why does the kid and absolutely no one else land on this planet with the same situation? How does the kid comes to obtain all the information and for what purpose? Why the purpose of ‘the rapture’ at the film’s climax as it really serves no purpose? And why does the cult get so involved with the boy?

Shannon has always been an excellent brooding actor, accomplishing a range of widely ranging characters. Here Shannon is able to conniving the audience of a troubled yet caring father. He is willing to kill anyone to save his son.

The first half of the film works better than the second half. When more is left to the audience’s imagination, the more mysterious and suspenseful the film becomes.

The performances of the actors almost save the movie. Two of supporting cast deserve mention. One is Sam Shepard playing the cult leader, Calvin Meyer and the other Adam Driver as the FBI agent Paul Sevier who ends up helping Roy and Alton. One suspects that Nichols demanded solid no-nonsense performances from his actors.

But love it or hate MIDNIGHT SPECIAL will definitely affect audiences on way or other, in an extreme just as the film is (extreme).

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