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Midnight Special: The Best Film of 2016 (So Far)

April 12, 2016

Midnight Special


Jeff Nichols (Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter, Mud) can do no wrong, and Midnight Special is proof of that. He is the rare director/writer who respects his audience and treats them as intellectual equals. I love how he doesn’t explain away his films with expository dialogue, and he allows them to unfold organically. He takes rural settings and makes them wondrous and exciting, and I appreciate how he never creates caricatures of the small town inhabitants.

What makes Midnight Special so great is it plays like a classic Amblin film (Back to the Future, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Gremlins, E.T.) that avoids mimicry (think Super 8). It is its own beast that creates a new world full of heart, excitement and wonder. The end product is a beautiful science fiction film about parents doing all they can to protect their child.


Midnight Special is equal parts chase film, family drama and science fiction spectacular. Nichols grounds the film in realism and the stakes become much more real because of that. The story revolves around two men rescuing a supernatural boy from a cultish “ranch” and attempting to get him to an undisclosed location. We find out that one of the men Roy (Michael Shannon) is the boy’s father and his cohort Lucas (Joel Edgerton) was a friend of Roy’s before he got sucked into the cult. Soon after their escape from the cult they find themselves being chased by the police, government and cult members. From there, we get a chase film that subverts the genre at every turn and takes us to a beautifully vague conclusion.

My favorite moment in Midnight Special is a neat little exchange between father and son. The boy Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) is worried about the amount of stress he is causing his dad and doesn’t want Roy to worry, Roy responds by saying “I like worrying about you.” It is a tiny moment, but it creates a believable bond between father and son.

Between Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter, Mud and Midnight Special, Michael Shannon and Jeff Nichols have formed a great cinematic team. Nichol’s uses Shannon’s height and intensity perfectly while somehow making him likable and endearing. Shannon in turn, does a great job creating rational and three-dimensional characters who still have an edge about them. I also loved the addition of Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst and Adam Driver to the Jeff Nichol world. They all do very good work and their characters all have moments to shine.



Midnight Special is an amazing film that proves Jeff Nichol’s is one of the best working directors today. If you get a chance check it out in the theaters because it deserves an immersive experience. Let me know what you think!



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