Midnight Special, directed by Jeff Nichols, begins in a hotel room with Roy Tomlin (Michael Shannon) and Lucas (Joel Edgerton) as the television plays an Amber Alert for a missing eight-year-old boy, Alton, who is revealed to be in the hotel room with Roy and Lucas. As the story continues, it becomes quite obvious Alton is not a regular boy. Sarah Tomlin, Roy’s ex-wife (Kirsten Dunst) joins the group as a high-stakes journey ensues to get Alton to a specific location. Getting there isn’t easy, seeing as the FBI (among others) have an interest in obtaining the kid for themselves.
Midnight Special propels you into the action straight off the bat. In some instances, this could be a great attention grabber, but it ended up making the pacing quite odd. As Andres pointed out after watching the film, it felt like one long third act. Doing this severed the time needed to build a genuine connection with the story and characters. This is the type of film that depends on its emotional drive; without it, you’re left feeling pretty uninterested, which proves to be the ultimate downfall of the film.
Nichols is able to build genuine suspense and mystery, leaving you perplexed in the best way, although this didn’t last long. There is a point in the film where it becomes far too expository and it broke the tension. The ending would have benefited more from little hints and small questions being answered to set up for the big reveal, especially when the answers to the questions aren’t as creative as we hoped for.
Adam Driver (who plays the FBI agent, Sevier), was by far my favourite part of the film. His characters’ awkward, cute, and dorky humour added some much needed light-hearted playfulness. Shannon did a great job displaying the subtle complexities of his character. Roy is a hard man who has the responsibility of protecting Alton; he’s not the type of man who can afford to be overly emotional. Yet, Shannon is able to display that hardness while showing deep down this is a man who is truly frightened about what the conclusion of this journey may mean for him. Ultimately, this is not a film about a boy with powers, but one about the hardships of the journey for those surrounding Alton.
With that said, there was a lot of untapped potential. Nichols and cinematographer Adam Stone construct a beautifully shot film with some good parts, but not enough to make it truly special.