In the heat of night
How Midnight Special is a sci- fi manhunt with a retro twist.
Mud writer/ director Jeff Nichols pitched his latest movie as a “sci- fi chase film”, but his inspirations were rather grander. Midnight Special stars Adam Driver, Kirsten Dunst and Michael Shannon and was shaped by Nichols’ love of two genre classics from the ’ 70s and ’ 80s. “Aesthetically, the film was influenced by Close Encounters and especially John Carpenter’s Starman – with its use of anamorphic lenses and blue light, and the beautiful night photography,” he tells Red Alert. “I wanted the story to be fast- paced and take place mostly at night. In terms of character and plot, this is like all of my previous films – grounded in reality and rooted in character and drama.”
The film tells the story of Roy ( Shannon), who discovers that his eight- year- old son Alton ( Jaeden Lieberher) possesses otherworldly powers, making him the target of a manhunt. “The story came to me after I became a father, when my son started experiencing seizures,” says Nichols. “The movie is about this father- son relationship, and it just so happens that the boy has supernatural powers.”
Michael Shannon was drawn to Midnight Special by his own parental experiences. “Alton is the most important person in the world to Roy, which is how I feel as a father,” he says. “But Roy is not sure who Alton is. Alton has abilities, powers, that seem to come from some alien source. As the story unfolds, I start to question whether his powers come from a place of malevolence.”
Nichols brought the same stripped- down approach to Midnight Special that he relied on for his previous films, favouring practical effects over CGI. “Alton emits light from his eyes,” he explains. “We rigged glasses with LED lights, which were put on lenses and placed over the retinas. I want the effects to look impressive, but I also want the audience to be asking questions after the film ends.”
Midnight Special opens in cinemas on 15 April.
When the Sat Nav lets you down, you can get a bit tetchy…