The movie opens even as the production logos are still occurring with a voiceover of an Amber Alert being broadcast on TV.
Fort Worth, TX
8 year old male
Pan to: said white 8 year old sitting on the floor of a hotel room, under a sheet, reading Superman comics (intentionally done as these two films opened at the same time or funny little coincidence?). He seems perfectly at ease with his surroundings; not panicking or frantic as one would imagine a kidnapped child to act. When Alton (Jaeden Lieberher who got his start alongside Bill Murray in St. Vincent) is asked if he’s ready to go, he proceeds to the car with the men we assume are his captors. As they drive off into the night, the music hauntingly swells and it is apparent that we aren’t even close to knowing the full extent of what’s going on.
I went into Midnight Special without being too sure what I was about to see. Despite having watched the trailer and reading the synopsis a handful of times I was still unable to put in my own words what the movie was really going to be about. When this happens I’m even more excited for a film regardless of whether it turns out to be worth it or not.
As the film begins to unfold we are introduced to two additional threads of the narrative. First, there is a church which exists on The Ranch (think YZF/ The Fundamentalist and include all the terrible hair styles). These folks, led by Calvin Meyer (Sam Shepard), believe that Alton is their link to God who has been communicating to them a day of reckoning. Then, there are the federal agents who have been monitoring The Ranch and are very interested in the “predictions” Alton has told the good sheeple which are taken as the Word and turned into sermons. Two agents are our main liaisons to the government’s involvement in the story: FBI agent Miller (Paul Sparks) and Homeland Security agent Sevier (Adam Driver). These men are trying to understand not only the church’s involvement but also the unexplained phenomenon that seem to follow in the wake of Alton, his father (Michael Shannon), and their Texas Ranger turned personal bodyguard Lucas (Joel Egerton).
The race to reach a specific location at a specific time is what moves the plot along and eventually leads to the different threads being sewn into one quilt. Most of the action takes place at night since Alton’s otherness causes sunlight to freak him out. As a result the visual tone of the film is very dark and blue with the score adding tension in all the right places. Being that I had no idea what kind of ride this was going to be, I really enjoyed the journey and the plot points (for being sci-fi) didn’t seem too far fetched. The revelation of who/what Alton is was very interesting and the reveal at the end was, again, interesting. I have a great deal of trouble with the ending of many sci-fi films; they always seem to let me down a bit. I enjoyed this journey however which is as much about a family sticking together (the above mentioned fellowship is joined by Kirsten Dunst as Alton’s mother) as it is about the kid’s powers. The point of mom and dad being there and helping you through anything hits home when Alton tells his dad that he “doesn’t have to worry anymore.” To which dad replies, “I like to worry about you. It’s part of the deal.”
The movie is slow to unravel, giving you just enough information after one point is explained to hook you again with another head scratcher. The entire cast did a really good job, in particular Michael Shanon (who I feel could play a really good Christopher Walken should the world ever need a bio pic on the old man….or maybe just his younger brother in some gritty drama) and Jaeden Lieberher who’s calm and composure add to the eeriness of his character. I’d suggest you go in without any thought of thinking you know what’s going to happen and just let the story take you on this ride. Overall I’d say Midnight Special was a pretty good flick, a solid B.
I still, however, don’t really get how the title works into movie outside of the end credit song being “Midnight Special” by Creedence Clearwater Revival but oh well…