Friday, March 18, 2016

Movie Review: "Midnight Special"

Man, this is a tough movie to review.  Midnight Special is the new movie from writer/director Jeff Nichols, who wowed with Take Shelter and Mud.  Nichols' favorite muse, Michael Shannon, stars yet again as a father who is trying to protect his dying son from a religious cult and the government.  They are traveling across the Southeastern United States in an effort to reach a location where Shannon believes something will happen that will save his son.  Of course I failed to mention that his son has special powers.  His eyes often glow, he can hear radio frequencies, and he can even glimpse other dimensions.  All of this sounds cool, but the movie never quite takes lift off.

We are about an hour into the movie before any of it makes any sense.  I know Nichols was inspired by movies from the Seventies and Eighties like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Starman, but Midnight Special could have used a little more traditional exposition.  While the way the movie unfolds was clearly an artistic choice, it was one that did not jive with me.  On top of it all, the movie never has any fun with its premise.  The aforementioned movies that Nichols was trying to emulate all had flashes of humor here and there to keep the movies engaging, and this is, for the most part, a deadly serious affair.  Now this is not to say that I hated Midnight Special, I just wanted to like it a whole lot more.

Every element of Midnight Special is well done.  The cinematography, the music, the visual effects, the acting, it's all top notch, even the story keeps you wanting to know more even in its more languid stretches.  Jeff Nichols truly is one of the more fascinating writer/directors currently working in the movie industry, and he continues to prove it here.  While I had my issues with the movie, I did enjoy it, just not enough to want to see it again or to really even recommend it to a whole lot of people.

As I said at the start, this is a tough movie to review, and I truly mean that.  Midnight Special is the kind of movie that tries to be both art and entertainment, and I think it only succeeds on one of those levels (three guesses which one).  This is not a movie that is for the casual moviegoer, but if you're a fan of arthouse movies, and in particular, if you're a fan of Nichols' previous work, you will find enough in Midnight Special to justify seeing it.

I give Midnight Special a 7 out of 10!

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