Midnight Special Synopsis: A father and son go on the run, pursued by the government and a cult drawn to the child’s special powers.
Tagline: He’s not like us.
Release Date: March 2016 | MPAA Rating: PG-13 | Coolthulhus Earned: 3
Trailer: Midnight Special
Midnight Special Review
I saw Midnight Special mentioned on a list of underrated science fiction movies a few weeks back. It’s a sci-fi drama about the parents of an obviously different child doing everything they can to make sure he gets what he needs. In this case, it’s to get away/go towards something, and escape from both a religious cult AND the federal government. The cover and blurb looked interesting enough that we decided to give it a go.
Michael Shannon (Roy), Kristin Dunst (Sarah) and Jaeden Lieberher (Alton) give solid performances. This is the first movie I’ve seen Michael Shannon in where he wasn’t playing someone crazy. (Admittedly, I don’t watch a lot of movies with him in it.) He was mostly stone-faced but still believable as the concerned father who would do anything for his boy. There are a few scenes where he’s looking at his son or at Alton’s mother where even though his face is still his eyes tell volumes. Kirsten Dunst, as usual, was a delight to watch. She’s not in a lot of the film, but when she’s on-screen your attention is drawn to her.
The most interesting role and actor of the lot for me, though, was Joel Edgerton’s character, Lucas. Lucas is apparently just an old friend of Roy (though I don’t think it’s ever really made clear). He is also either former or current law enforcement. This man – who has no real reason to risk his career at a minimum, his life at maximum – puts it all on the line to help Roy keep his kid safe. It’s obvious he cares about both Roy and Alton. I also liked that Lucas wasn’t a subordinate in the friendship. He was willing to step up and speak up when something was happening that he didn’t agree with. At one point even standing up for Alton when he believed his health was at risk. He just comes across as a completely good, dependable guy.
Midnight Special, for all the action that happens, has a very low-key feel to it. Yes, Alton is special, and his differences definitely play a large part in the film. However, really, this is a movie about parental love, and doing what is right for your child. If you’re a good parent and your child needs you to help them, you’ll move heaven and earth to do whatever you can. There’s very little dialogue, which I think forces the actors do more. Even in the defining moments, when people have a perfectly good reason to shout and scream and yell, it’s kept to a minimum.
However, Midnight Special is not a great film. There’s very little character development. You never really ‘feel’ for Alton on any level. There’s no explanation at all how two apparently normal people came to make a child that was as different as he was. There was no explanation or coherence to Alton’s powers. It’s like they just threw in a bit of everything to make him seem different and interesting. (It’s not that we necessarily need an explanation, but that the film was lacking a little bit in a lot of ways, and this would have been the easiest one to fix.) It had the potential to be a movie that knocked your socks off. Had the potential, but didn’t come close to fulfilling it. Especially with that…. ending.
Midnight Special is not a bad movie, but I can see it easily being one that not many people will enjoy. Don’t go into it expecting that just because it involves a big chase that you’re going to see plenty of action. You aren’t. You also aren’t going to see a lot of special effects (though there’s a scene near the end that will have you pondering the fall-out for a while).