My Plot review: Recommended
Sometimes it's not a good thing to put all of your hopes and anticipation into one film, often opening yourself up to disappointment. Fortunately, Jeff Nichols Midnight Special not only matched these expectations, it exceeded them with aplomb.
Michael Shannon again takes the lead for Nichols as a father who learns his son has special powers and must keep him away from the government and a group of religious zealots.
Nichols hasn't been shy about the influence of Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter on 'Midnight Special', citing 'Starman' and 'Close Encounters' as having an "aesthetic connection" but believe me when I tell you that this is 100% a Jeff Nichols film. Those expecting a wan-bam Sci-fi blockbuster will be in for a shock, because 'Midnight Special' is a thoughtful, patient and incredibly confident film that reminded me so much of Nichols take on the disaster film, 'Take Shelter'.
It's not a film that is afraid to take its time. It rarely hand feeds you information nor is there the usual exposition dump before the final act. Instead, the film trusts your intelligence enough to follow and connect with what is a very soulful and very intimate story.
"Nichols is aided by a tremendous cast, with Shannon and Edgerton turning in the best performances of their careers. Never showy, never saccharine but note perfect for the story being told."
The restraint on the page and behind the camera is echoed in David Wingo's score, a film with subtle nods to John Carpenter's 80's work before opening up to a beautiful piece that accompanies the films touching finale. Wingo's work on 'Take Shelter' was excellent, what he has created for 'Midnight Special' is the next level.
A special mention should also go to Nichols regular DoP Adam Stone, who paints the film in such a wonderful blue and compliments the aforementioned score wonderfully, again at that tremendous ending.
My only worry about 'Midnight Special' is that ending, which if you know Nichols work then you know not to expect a blast-a-thin. Despite critical success, regular audiences may not connect with this kind of film making. Modern Sci-fi is sold on action sequences and dazzling effects, just take a look at the 'Star Trek' franchise which has embraced the demand for brawn over brains. 'Midnight Special' is Sci-fi from days past, one that aims for the heart and the head, not just your peepers. For this very reason, I feel your average Joe won't connect with this film in the way I have as its being sold as a popcorn film when it is truly so much more than that.
There are three young directors whose careers I have been following, both as a huge fan and also with huge amounts of intrigue. Jim Mickle is nailing the dirty south genre-benders, Rian Johnson is behind the camera of some space opera out next year and Jeff Nichols...well Jeff Nichols has just set the bar for every other film released in 2016.
Good luck with that, film makers.
Midnight Special is released in the UK this Friday 8th April