Sunday, March 20, 2016

Midnight Special

    Writer/director Jeff Nichols returns with his third feature, following "Mud" and "Take Shelter".  This new drama is a slowly absorbing thriller, a mystery with sci-fi elements that turns into a indy version of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind".

     Michael Shannon, so good in "Take Shelter", returns as Roy, a father who has kidnapped his own son from a religious cult for reasons that are revealed ever so slowly. Joel Edgerton plays his best friend, Lucas, who helps him evade both the cult and the U.S government who are both after the boy. Kristen Dunst plays the boy's mother and Adam Driver is the NSC scientist working with the FBI to find the boy. Jaeden Liberher plays Alton, the boy with special powers that everyone wants for their own reasons.

       The film has a minimalist soundtrack, little dialog and reveals it's details very slowly. All of that contribute to a story that only up it's the pace late in the film.  What Mr. Nichols relies on is the powerful relationship between Roy and Alton to maintain interest while the mystery unfolds. The emotional connection is a strong one and a father's love is really the core of the film as it crosses over into full sci-fi mold late in the story.

        With little dialog, Mr. Shannon conveys much through his eyes which is ironic since Alton's power is expressed through his eyes. Ms. Dunst doesn't add much as the mother since the writing is directed  towards the father/son relationship. Mr. Driver adds a small dose of comic relief in an otherwise very serious film.  I applaud Mr. Nichols effort but ultimately, I came away disappointed.  Both his earlier films were much stronger in structure and story.

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