Movie Review: Midnight Special

Thanks to a well executed and well written screenplay backed by solid performances, Midnight Special is a gripping sci-fi thriller that examines faith.

A father (Michael Shannon), goes on the run to protect his young son, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), and uncover the truth behind the boy’s special powers. What starts as a race from religious extremists and local law enforcement quickly escalates to a nationwide manhunt involving the highest levels of the Federal Government. Ultimately his father risks everything to protect Alton and help fulfill a destiny that could change the world forever.

There is always something extraordinary with simplicity, if one knows how to do it right.

Midnight Special is essentially one long chase but comes with a tight focus to deliver a gripping story.

Here, there’s no chosen one or cursed child. A father is simply trying to take his son to a specific place and time while they’re hounded by a cult who want him back and the government who want to know what’s going on.

Micheal Shannon is good at playing menacing individuals, but he proves to be equally good at portraying an every-man through a restrained performance as Alton’s father. The rest of the cast also did well and they’re able to create individuals out of thin characterizations.

The script does away with a traditional narrative that uses one character to explain everything. Instead it drops you right in the middle of the story and uses dialogue to reveal details and visual clues to drop hints. To offset the slow pace, there are bursts of action. Cinematography and score help turn these moments into genuine surprise and set the tone of the movie. One scene that may or may not involve an asteroid looks believable and portend of something possibly bigger and life-changing for the whole world.

All these simple elements result to an engaging story that isn’t dumbed down. Midnight Special is able to sustain suspense and you’ll patiently go along the ride to find out the truth and seek to understand.

The characters are able to reach their destination but the movie has no intention of giving any answers. In fact, it piles on more questions than it can answer. The third act is earnest, but chooses to delve into family rather than tackle its mystery.

Still, this is a part of what Midnight Special set out to do. Right from the start, it already tells the audience that it’s a serious sci-fi thriller where the journey matters more than the destination.

In this journey the movie takes a look at faith – not about religion mind you – the belief in something bigger than ourselves. Alton’s family, including his father’s friend Lucas, is committed even though they don’t how it will all end. It also examines what drives people in the face of the unknown. The cult sees Alton as a savior while the FBI perceives him as a threat.

More importantly it asks, if you face something bigger and more extraordinary that anything you’ve imagined would you take a leap of faith or fight your fears?

And this introspective question that organically emerges in a simple story, is what truly makes Midnight Special special.

My Rating: 10/10

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