March 26, 2016

Movie Review: Midnight Special

So, the other day I had the opportunity to see an early screening of Midnight Special. I jumped at the chance, having been rather intrigued by the trailer. I was also intrigued to see what writer/director Jeff Nichols would do with a science fiction film, following a couple really good dramas in Mud and Take Shelter. Not to mention Michael Shannon is an excellent actor. On top of seeing the film, there was the added bonus of a Mondo 7” vinyl containing a couple of tracks from the soundtrack. So, how did it turn out? Well, good and bad, leaving the experience decidedly in the middle of the road with its ultimate fate yet to be decided.

The thing with Midnight Special is that it is well acted, and for the most part involving, the problem is that there is not enough of it. When it ended I felt like the entire film was a third act. The problem is that without knowing what happened in the first two acts, I am not sure why I should care what happens in the third. The stakes are never really given, so you can almost assume there really are no stakes. No one in the film really has any idea why what is happening is so important, nor what is really going to happen. It is very strange in this way.

As Midnight Special gets underway, we are introduced to Roy (Michael Shannon), Lucas (Joel Edgerton), and young Alton (Jaeden Lieberher, St. Vincent). Roy sees a report of a kidnapping and his picture on the television just as they get ready to leave the hotel room they are in. Meanwhile, we also see a place called The Ranch, which appears to be some sort of religious compound. The men in charge are intent on locating Alton, but their efforts are delayed when the compound is raided by the FBI and they are dragged off for questioning, led by NSA analyst Paul Sevier (Adam Driver).

What follows is essentially a chase involving Roy and his son, Alton, who is clearly different (evidenced by the trailer), and a paranoid government who have no idea what they are chasing, just that they need to get to it before anyone else does. It is an involving chase as you get some interesting pieces and the characters certainly seem to be invested in what is going on. Unfortunately, for the audience, when things become clear, it is a little too late to really care about it. Yes, I was invested in what was happening, only because I thought something was going to happen.

In a way, Jeff Nichols has made a masterful film. He made me care about essentially nothing. He made me want to no more when there was no more. It is the sort of movie where the real bulk of it happened before the first frame and we are left peeking around the edges trying to piece it together. Sometimes I like this sort of movie, this one felt like that sort, but there did not seem to be all that much around the edges. It is a stripped down film that wants to believe it is transcending genre, when all it really does is strip away a few too many layers.

I was right there for the majority of the running time. I wanted to see more. I wanted to know what was happening, and why, and where the were going, and the relationships between everyone. Then the climax came and the credits rolled and I was left with very little to really hang onto. I do think it may reward multiple viewings, I am just not sure I want to do it.

Now, the funny thing is that it sounds Like I hated it. I didn’t. I respect what Nichols was trying to do, and his ability to suck me into the story with nothing much behind the curtain. The acting was quite good, especially from Michael Shannon. That man is just so intense, he conveys a lot in just a look, carrying so much emotion in his face. I also think the score is pretty fantastic as well. Of course, the movie also looks really good. There is a lot to like, while the actual story leaves us ultimately empty. Sort of like blowing up a balloon, but instead of tieing it off to enjoy, somebody sticks it with a pin, letting it blow up in your face. It is worth watching, just be careful what you hope for.

Mildly Recommended.

Related Posts with Thumbnails


Post a Comment