Midnight Special is the story of a father who goes all out to protect his son, who has supernatural abilities. Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) is a young kid with abilities that are beyond human comprehension. As Alton starts to grow up, his powers grow; leading to people knowing about his existence. With multiple entities like government and religious bodies now interested in Alton, his father Roy (Michael Shannon) has no choice but hit the road and go off radar to keep his son safe.
Midnight Special somewhat defies the true definition of an indie sci-fi (considering large budget and the star cast), but in its essence it is definitely an indie sci-fi. The story is elementally sci-fi due the protagonist’s powers, but as you look deeper into the story, you discover that it is all about the relationship between a father and a son. The powers only push the scale, showing the extremities a father will go through, fighting against the whole nation. Yet at the same time feeling helpless as he knows close to nothing about his son’s powers or their effect. As you glimpse at the special effects in the movie, you will notice that the graphics are visually stunning rather than being blankly explosive. The movie aptly fits the rendition of an intelligent sci-fi. It is no doubt that the director, Jeff Nichols, hits a sweet spot with a movie that is visually expressive as it is thoughtfully deep. Nichols might be a fresh name for some, but his past work (Mud, Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter) have all been critically acclaimed.
If you’ve been a follower of Nichols, it is no doubt that Michael Shannon (General Zod from Man of Steel) is his favorite actor and with this feature the duo once again prove that they can work magic together. Shannon gives an utterly convincing performance of a father who would do anything for his son’s safety, yet never forgetting the bond and trust between a father and a son. Jaeden Lieberher is a pleasant surprise. I can almost see Lieberher walk the carpets akin to Jacob Tremblay (Room). Joining the lead are Kirsten Dunst (I swear I couldn’t remember the last time I saw her on screen) as Alton’s mother and Adam Driver (Kylo Ren from Star Wars: The Force Awakens) as a NSA agent and Joel Edgerton (Warrior, Black Mass) as Roy’s friend. Now that I look back at the story, each one of these characters is written to in some way complement the father-son relationship that is at the core of the movie.
So if you have been disappointed by movies that presume your IQ to be lower than the percentage of CGI in them, it’s time you gave the underdogs a chance. Midnight Special is a movie that will provide an experience that rather than defying logic, makes you wonder about human nature, relationships and the unknown.