04 April 2016

The Secret in His Eyes — Midnight Special Review

It's hard to say much about Jeff Nichols' new film Midnight Special without spoiling it. It's definitely better to go in knowing as little as possible and if you have yet to see the film, I suggest that you don't read on any further. but suffice to say that Midnight Special is a beautiful and ethereal work that transcends genres.

As the film opens, we learn that a young boy, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), has been abducted from a religious cult by his birth father Roy (Michael Shannon) and Roy's friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton). It soon becomes clear that there is something highly unusual about Alton — he seems to have some kind of other-worldly, and potentially dangerous, powers, hence the reason for Roy taking him away. The three drive together across the country under the cover of nightfall, stopping to sleep during the day at various friends' houses and eventually at the house of Alton's mother Sarah (Kirsten Dunst). Meanwhile, various government officials, led by NSA agent Paul Sevier (Adam Driver), have their own interest in tracking down Alton that goes far beyond the scope of a missing-child case.

Midnight Special is a road movie, a thriller, a sci-fi and an adventure; at its core, though, it is the story of a father who will do anything to protect his son. The chemistry between Shannon and the talented young Lieberher is terrific, and is bolstered by a strong supporting cast — Edgerton and Driver are particularly good. Adam Stone's gorgeous cinematography makes the most of the stunning landscapes of the US south, which contrast nicely with the gritty realism of the sequestered houses and cheap motels. Add in a beautiful, haunting score from David Wingo and the result is a transcendental experience.

If Terrence Malick directed Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the result might be a little like Midnight Special. Slow and brooding at times but always compelling, the film is an enigma that gradually unravels until its majestic climax — David Wingo's haunting score is perfect here, and the result is a sublime and transcendental viewing experience.

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