“I was in NYC this past weekend (relative to writing, not posting). Somehow in between a matinee of She Loves Me and an evening show of Hamilton (!!!!!) (My five year anniversary present from work) I had just enough time to get in a screening of Midnight Special. Sucked having to run over ten blocks from Studio 54 in order to make it to the Times Square AMC in time, but it worked. And I had half of that morning’s rainbow bagels in my bag to feed me. In the dark, I wiped off the excess cream cheese, concerned it had spoiled in the couple hours they’d been hidden away, as I sat and watched what was such a fun movie that was right up my alley.
The movie stars a superb Michael Shannon as the father of a mysterious boy with special powers. With the help of a friend, Joel Edgerton, they are on the run from the cult-like ranch the boy and father once called home. They’re being pursued by the authorities, including an NSA operation led by Adam Driver. The whole thing is question after question after question. Who is this boy and what can he do and why? Where are they trying to get to? Why does do the people at the ranch see him as their savior?
I’m not sure if I walked in at the exact minute it was starting, or if I missed something. If I did miss something, I don’t think it was anything that would have answered those. But it was just the right level of questions. Not so unknowable that left me lost, but instead keeping me hanging on that perfect balance. More Donnie Darko or Birdman than Southland Tales or Mulholland Dr. I almost didn’t want to know the answers because I didn’t want to ruin the illusion. When this type of story telling is executed as expertly as it was here, I eat it all up (and no, I’m not talking about the rainbow bagels again).
The film was written and directed by Jeff Nichols, who’d previously teamed up with Shannon for Take Shelter and several other films. Nichols really knows how to best use Shannon’s talents and the two have a strange but effective magic together. Shannon is very much a favorite of mine, but with the exception of his Oscar nominated turn in Revolutionary Road under Sam Mendes, Nichols seems to be the only director who knows how to get the best out of this guy. Also, watching this film, I realized that sometime recently I must have grown up quite a bit because I found myself really attracted to how his character is so protective and attentive to his son. That’s a big step for someone who typically pines for the pretty boy in any movie. Buuuuut let’s just leave that thought and move on.
Nichols has said he drew a lot of inspiration from Spielberg and ET, and it definitely shows. Midnight Special has some of that same sense of wonder, by which I don’t mean that you’re wondering what’s going on. I mean, you are, but there’s a calm about it, not a confusion. In a time when so many films out there are just cookie cutter copies of each other, it’s nice to have something that truly feels different.
Midnight Special – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”