Writer/director Jeff Nichols wrote and directed Take Shelter in 2011. It’s — like Midnight Special — an odd piece of science fiction. And it, too, starred Michael Shannon. Both are good films, but lack that punchy, sock-it-to-you climax needed to rank up there with the greatest of the genre.
This isn’t to say Nichols is a bad writer. Both films are pretty good, and Nichols wrote and directed the Matthew McConaughey flick Mud in 2012. It was brilliant and shows Nichols has a bright future.
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The plot is complex. Shannon — who starred as General Zod in Man of Steel — is Roy. The film opens as he and Joel Edgerton’s (Black Mass) Lucas are wanted by the law for kidnapping a young boy, Alton, from a religious cult. Alton has special powers, and his eyes and ears have to be kept busy or weird things happen, like U.S. military secrets and codes get found in sermons preached by the cult leader.
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Or satellites fall from the sky.
The cult wants him back. The military wants him, and the boy has a date with destiny in four days. A date Roy and Lucas and the boy’s mom — played by Kirsten Dunst — don’t want him to miss.
Shannon and Edgerton are two of my favorite fringe actors. Both are exceptional in everything, and this is no exception. Shannon has this haunted, doomed quality about his persona, and an acting style that makes a part like this so perfect for him. Edgerton compliments it. He’s always quiet, assured and a competent bad ass when needed.
And it’s needed here.
St. Vincent’s Jaeden Lieberher plays Alton. Like he was in St. Vincent, the kid is pretty good. The other seriously good piece of work in Midnight Special is that of Adam Driver, who plays a federal agent tracking the kid. Those who caught Driver in While You’re Young or This is Where I Leave You know he’s terrific in anything. Comedy always helps sell a concept like this, and Driver provides much needed comic relief.
Midnight Special generates more questions than answers. Sometimes that’s good, but not so much here. It’s the only negative, and the positives that take you to the head-scratching conclusion are way more than enough to get it a high recommendation.
Director: Jeff Nichols
Stars: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Adam Driver, Kirsten Dunst, Jaeden Lieberher, Sam Shepard
Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes and some violence. It’s playing at Fairchild’s Queensgate 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen.
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it’s your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don’t bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.