SXSW Film 2016 Review: MIDNIGHT SPECIAL

By Liz Lopez

Rating: B+

Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special supernatural thriller had a North American Premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in the Headliners category and now is in theatrical release. Writer/director Nichols’ fourth feature reunites him with actor Michael Shannon (Take Shelter, Mud, Shotgun Stories). The film may appear to be one story at the beginning, but soon enough, the audience learns that the supposed child abduction of an 8-year-old boy, Alton Meyer (Jaeden Lieberher, St. Vincent) by Roy Tomlin (Shannon) and Lucas (Joel Edgerton), is anything but that. A great script, an ensemble cast with excellent performances and Adam Stone’s widescreen 35mm cinematography (in particular the spectacular sci-fi scenes) make this a must see film.

Roy, Lucas and Alton are driving cross-country by night to stay out of the view of law enforcement and others from a religious cult known as “the Ranch,” all determined to locate the boy for differing reasons. From darkened hotel rooms, to safe houses, they stay behind blacked-out windows due to Alton’s condition that can be deadly if exposed to light. As the journey continues, viewers learn that Alton’s birth parents are Roy and his ex-wife, Sarah (Kirsten Dunst) who actually want to save the child from being used by the cult’s leader, Calvin Meyer (Sam Shepard) and then the National Security Agency (NSA) has an eager officer, Paul Sevier (Adam Driver), who deems him “a serious threat” because of what he is capable of doing.

I do not want to add any spoilers as to what or who this child is and can do, but suffice to say there is some room for interpretation. I admire the final scenes with the child and spectacular sci-fi that hints to films from long ago. I will not list any film for a comparison, and encourage you to enter the theater ready to be entertained.

The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 and a running time of 102 minutes.

Source: Warner Bros.

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