Short reviews for clear and concise verdicts on a broad range of films…
Midnight Special (Jeff Nichols/2016)
As we travel down windy, rural Texan roads, it’s pitch black. The lone car has three occupants; Roy (Michael Shannon), Lucas (Joel Edgerton) and a young boy wearing blue goggles, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher). Alton has been reared on ‘The Ranch’, among a creepy cult who feed their need for God via the boy’s powers. His eyes burst with light, buildings shake and break in his presence and he knows secret, secure government information. But, on news channels, his abduction by Roy has gone national and time is limited. Midnight Special, directed by Jeff Nichols, is not keen to answer questions and leaves many ideas and theories lingering in the air for long periods of time to dramatic effect – to begin, we never know what prompted the kidnap in the first place. There is a welcome Spielbergian tone to Midnight Special as FBI agents (led by Star Wars actor, Adam Driver) track Alton in an E.T. manner, and the sense that they are crucially trying to get somewhere by a specified time, recalls Close Encounters of the Third Kind. But the comic-book references and spiritual sci-fi tone also feels a lot like the best of M. Night Shyamalan. Nichols leaves profound ideas to deconstruct and reflect upon, but ensures that these are accessible through an intimate and personal depiction of family. Thematic references to religion, faith and mortality are all touched upon without force, leaving Midnight Special as a powerful and deeply memorable tale to discuss time and again in the future.
Forgive the typos for the following spoiler thoughts:
It is fascinating to consider what people see in his eyes. Does he give a sense of peace? A seren calmness? Perhaps those who look into his eyes simply get the warm sense that we’re not alone in this universe and it’s comforting. Is Alton a superhero? I don’t think so. For a long time I thought how neat it would be the same universe as Unbreakable but the finale argues otherwise.
I’m currently under the impression that it is a heaven, of sorts, that they see – despite its Tomorrowland/Elysium/Oblivion architecture. It feels as if Midnight Special is about the struggle with death and the awful process of mourning the loss of the child. The end gives a sense of closure for the parents as they accept their loss and this acceptance helps them, separately, to move on. It teases how people turn to religion to support and how some churches don’t take care of your ongoing struggle over time. Religion is like a temporary band aid as it initially protects and supports, but eventually anything emotional feelings bottled up with squeeze out.
Of course, there is no definitive answer, but it is a joy to consider how these meanings resonate to you . What do these things represent? How do characters fit into these theories? Does Adam Driver see events through ‘the innocent eyes of a child’, convinced by what he has witnessed, knowing his purpose and how he can help, by the end. Lucas, alternatively, is a new believer.