Starring: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Jaeden Lieberher, Adam Driver, Kirsten Dunst, Sam Shepard, Bill Camp
Directed By: Jeff Nichols
Sometimes, when you make a sci-fi film that asks a lot of questions, and you don’t answer them… you haven’t really made a good movie. I was looking forward to finally watching Midnight Special. I thought it would be a pleasant surprise indie like Ex Machina. It’s not.
Midnight Special is an incredibly dark film, shot almost entirely at night, which is appropriate because the film keeps us in the dark about so much. There’s a boy (Lieberher) who is being transported by his father (Shannon) and a friend (Edgerton) to locations unknown. He was taken from a religious cult, and he has some pretty unique abilities. The government is after them, and the religious cult wants him back too. Is he a savior? An alien? Something else?
I think Jeff Nichols wanted us to find out tidbits throughout the course of the film, but I still think the film ended with a lot of unanswered questions. How did he even come to exist? He had two human parents, why was he “exceptional”?
Add to that a bunch of muted performances from Driver, Shannon, Edgerton, and Dunst. Lieberher has been better in other things, but I also think a different child actor in this role could have spelled more danger. It’s a tough role, and he’s one of the few young actors working who could nail it.
I appreciate that he tried to create a unique story, but I don’t think the delivery and execution actually worked. It’s not an awful film, but it’s not a film I’d really recommend. It falls on the side of being mediocre, and there just are better films to watch.
If you’re looking for innovative indie sci-fi cinema, watch Ex Machina instead. If you’re looking for a good Michael Shannon film, watch 99 Homes instead. If you’re looking for some Joel Edgerton action, The Gift is better. And Jaden Lieberher was better in St Vincent.
FINAL GRADE: C-