From the director of Take Shelter and Mud comes another cult oddity starring Michael Shannon. Midnight Special is a science-fiction film about a young boy with unpredictable abilities who is being driven out of the city by his father as government agents hunt them down.
Very much a nod to all those E.T.-style sci-fi films of the 1980's, Midnight Special remains a modern update rather than a straight-up homage like Stranger Things. The tone and pacing throughout is about as gloomy and slow as you'd expect from a Jeff Nichols film so if you're looking for big action sequences or tons of trippy effects then this will probably disappoint. The cool thing about Midnight Special is it really doesn't feel like a science fiction movie so when something out of the ordinary happens it has an impact. The mood is pretty depressing from start to finish which is rare for a movie of that type but appropriate as the characters all journey towards a goal that can only mean one thing if achieved: a father losing his child forever.
Unlike, say Starman, where the main character was random enough to keep you entertained before the bittersweet ending, here there's little in the way of comic relief. Adam Driver's FBI agent is probably the closest thing to an upbeat character the film has to offer but he only appears in short bursts. He is good in this, though, as is the rest of the solid supporting cast which includes Kirsten Dunst and Joel Edgerton. Michael Shannon is just as intense as ever and it's interesting to see him in a different type of anti-hero role as a man who would do anything, kill anyone in his path, just to save his son. The film never dwells on how dangerous that character is throughout the movie which only makes the film more compelling because you never know how far he'll go or what will happen to him afterwards.
Midnight Special may suffer from an all-too familiar general concept but what it does with that kind of theme is pretty fascinating. This isn't the most fun movie out there but it's a refreshingly dark, gritty take on a Spielbergian formula. A slightly more powerful ending would have easily elevated this one to a "must-see" rating but, as it stands, it's still one of 2016's best.