“Gives off major Spielberg-meets-Carpenter vibes” is how io9 described the new Jeff Nichols movie Midnight Special. Nichols previously wrote and directed Mud and Take Shelter, the former proving his mastery of working with child actors and the latter hinting at a talent for rather intense, slow-burn takes on familiar genres. Put those two forces together and throw in Michael Shannon, who was a co-star in Mud and the lead of Take Shelter, and the end result is Midnight Special, which premiered to rave reviews at the Berlin Film Festival. Frankly, the burn in Take Shelter was just a little too slow for my tastes, although Shannon’s performance and the film’s ending were equally haunting. That means I am not completely in the bag for this movie simply because Jeff Nichols made it, but I’m definitely intrigued.
The story involves a father (Shannon) attempting to protect his son (Jaeden Lieberher, best known as the kid in St. Vincent) who has been exhibiting signs of possessing supernatural powers. Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Sam Shepard and Adam Driver fill out the supporting cast.
“The less audiences know going in, the better, though that could backfire on a movie without a big enough star to attract the crowds it would need to inspire a word-of-mouth following,” says Variety, in the first review I clicked on through RottenTomatoes. Given such a warning, I immediately stopped reading their review. In fact, I decided against reading any reviews. Instead, here are some pull-quotes from RT followed by the trailer:
Nichols’ screenplay expertly peels away exposition and drops us in a story already in motion, with scenes set up to infer one situation only to reveal another via meticulously parceled out fragments of information. – THR
Less a star-gazing look into a probable future than a thought-provoking portrait of modern America and the fear of the unknown many that families wrestle with daily. – The Skinny
Nichols aims high with this film. As with all its cinematic precedents, there’s a race to a destination, many people involved, and at times the going can be uneven. The payoff, though, is worth it. – ScreenInternational
The bigger the questions you ask, the less likely it is you can answer them in any satisfying, definitive way, and the human, existential, metaphysical questions that “Midnight Special” poses, if you care to look for them, are enormous. – The Playlist
The one negative review:
Sadly, the Spielbergian magic that Nichols so desperately wants to recreate is almost entirely absent from the end product and without it, there’s something disappointingly lifeless instead. – The Guardian
Midnight Special is due out March 18, 2016.