Aug 25, 2017

[Movies] Midnight Special (2016) Review

When I'm not committing us to try and binge-watch through another TV series, I usually turn to Tobie and ask him to load a movie for us to watch while eating dinner or just hanging out at home. We are constantly watching stuff on TV whenever we're at home unless we decide to play board games even without other players joining us.

Midnight Special was one of those movies that we watched over dinner. I had never heard of it before but that is often the case when Tobie loads this or that movie that he read about somewhere and figured it might be worth watching. As much as we still have our mainstream stuff, he still manages to find these quirky titles.

No regrets though as his explorations introduced me to movies like The Fall so the gamble is usually worth some of the odder or crappier movies we encounter.

Unfortunately this was one of those stranger movies.

Synopsis: Midnight Special is an American science fiction movie written and directed by Jeff Nichols. It competed in the 66th Berlin International Film Festival.

Roy Tomlin (Michael Shannon) and Lucas (Joel Edgerton) are on the run as they have kidnapped 8-year old Alton (Jaeden Lieberher). It is later revealed that he had been kidnapped from a cult-like group led by Pastor Calvin Meyer (Sam Shepard). The Pastor has dispatched two of his own men to find the boy but then even the NBI and the NSA get involved as somehow number sequences from encoded satellite transmissions have made their way into the Pastor's sermons. And everything leads back to the boy, Alton.

Alton has some unusual powers that have begun to manifest. The Pastor thought he was speaking in tongues but it seems he was pocking up covert transmissions. Beams of light sometimes emit from his eyes and anyone who looks directly at them becomes spellbound. What all these powers mean is a mystery butt Roy and Lucas are determined to get Alton as far away as possible from the Pastor and his flock.

What I Liked: The movie starts with a great mystery vibe and all the trappings of a Spielberg-esque story like what we saw recreated in Super 8. So initially you really start asking all the questions about what's going on, who these kidnappers are and what is up with Alton and his strange powers. They don't seem to be practical abilities and it's not like Roy and Lucas have a clear plan in mind. They're just determined to keep moving and so as the audience we try to keep pace with them.

The Roy-Lucas-Alton sequences are definitely some of the best in the movie. With minimal dialog they manage to communicate so much about their situation and a heck of a lot of tension as well. There's no need to try and explain Alton's ability with annoying exposition.

What Could Have Been Better: Unfortunately, a lot of the movie oscillates between being confusing or just boring. Outside of the tense moments of Roy on the run, a lot of the movie ends up feeling slow and not all that engaging. You don't really care about the Pastor and his flock all that much apart from being the somewhat antagonist. And the government arc just never develops into something worth remembering.

The final act of the movie felt both rush and almost nonsensical. It's the sort of movie that wants to end with a mystery but instead it just felt a little left field. You're not quite sure where things are supposed to go and then it's over and you have so many questions. I don't need all of them answered, but I need more than what we got with that ending.

TL;DR: Midnight Special has all the trappings of a classic Spielberg movie but none of its heart and wonder. There are some great elements to it but it never quite comes together and you end up feeling quite lost once the end credits roll. Thus the movie gets 2 odd things that happen around Alton out of a possible 5.

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