“Michael Shannon” they said, and I was in. That’s all it took to get my butt in the seat for Midnight Special; I didn’t know any more than that,and didn’t feel I needed to.
I’m not sure I could tell you more than that, even if I wanted to. And I’m not sure you’d believe me anyway.
The plot to Midnight Special unfolds itself slowly. You get dumped into the action fairly quickly, but you don’t know why. Where are we going? What’s happening? You’re in a car with Roy (Shannon), a little boy named Alton, and a man we’re not sure about named Lucas (Joel Edgerton). Everyone’s edgy. It’s clear we’re trying to get away, and in a hurry. Are we being pursued?
There’s a weird church, a culty church, where the parishioners, especially the women in their long out-of-date dresses and braided hairstyles, remind you of a polygamist mormom compound. They call it The Ranch. They worship at night, reciting words you don’t remember from any bible. The Ranch is looking for Alton. Alton has been kidnapped.
Meanwhile, back in that frantic car, Alton is beginning to struggle. Lucas doesn’t know what the hell is going on, but Roy seems more familiar. Is he Alton’s father? But do relationships even matter when the boy in question seems to be…displaying certain super powers?
The minute Adam Driver appears on screen in crooked glasses, it’s no longer just a matter of a missing boy. The FBI and NSA are chasing him too, and not to return him to his home. The Ranch believe Alton to be their saviour. The government thinks he’s a weapon. Roy just thinks he’s his son.
Some of your questions will be answered, and some will not. There are a lot of mysteries revealing themselves along the way, and they add to the tension and the sense of urgency. I enjoyed the lack of clarity although I admit I wished some of it got wrapped up a little better. There’s a lot of information that gets thrown at us and not all of it has a “purpose.” But it’s so crazy well-acted that this feels like nit-picking. Michael Shannon seems determined, perhaps with divine meaning. Joel Edgerton’s character is more nuanced, and therefore more relatable. He’s clearly invested, but his motives are less certain. The kid, played by Jaeden Lieberher, is already familiar to audiences from the likes of Aloha and St. Vincent. He plays an intriguing mixture of vulnerable and other-wordly that keeps us guessing. This is one kid who’s not a weak link.
Director Jeff Nichol’s vision is ambitious and complex. It doesn’t end quite as satisfyingly as it begins, but it’s an adventure worth embarking upon and I hope that you will.