Al­ton Pow­ers

SFX - - Reviews -

re­leased 15 April 12A | 112 min­utes

Di­rec­tor Jeff Ni­chols

Cast Michael Shan­non, Joel Edgerton,

Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver

“What’s Kryp­tonite?” asks boy- on- the- run Al­ton ( Jae­den Lieber­her), freshly res­cued from a religious cult who be­lieve he has mys­te­ri­ous pow­ers by dad Roy ( Michael Shan­non) and Roy’s friend Lu­cas ( Joel Edgerton). Lu­cas has given Al­ton a fist­ful of su­per­hero comics to read in the back of their es­cape ve­hi­cle, and it’s clear Su­per­man is his favourite. Roy gri­maces, chastis­ing Lu­cas for giv­ing them to Al­ton in the first place: “He needs to know what’s real.”

That’s about as clear a mis­sion state­ment as you could get for Jeff Ni­chols’ fourth film, a su­per­hero flick in all but name. If M Night Shya­malan’s sim­i­larly- toned Un­break­able was the first en­try in a shared uni­verse, Mid­night Spe­cial would be its Win­ter Sol­dier. It’s solemn, tense, with a cyn­i­cal eye on gov­ern­men­tal con­trol – there are plenty of par­al­lels. But there are also dif­fer­ences. Mid­night Spe­cial is so grounded in the real world that its ex­po­si­tion- spout­ing cameo doesn’t come from an Arnim Zola equiv­a­lent, but from Fox News rant­bot Nancy Grace ( one’s on a com­puter screen, one’s on a TV screen. One has ques­tion­able political views, one’s… Ac­tu­ally, we’ll just leave it there).

It has se­ri­ous points to make about religious ob­ses­sion, liv­ing in a weaponised so­ci­ety and, most sig­nif­i­cantly, free­dom. The open­ing im­age – a piece of tape cov­er­ing up a ho­tel- door peep­hole – might seem throw­away, but it’s a neat vis­ual metaphor for the film’s key theme: hid­ing might stop peo­ple from see­ing you, but it also stops you from re­ceiv­ing in­for­ma­tion. Even­tu­ally, you have to let the light in.

Packed with pow­er­ful per­for­mances and set­pieces that are lit­tle short of awe- in­spir­ing ( brace your­self for the me­teor storm), with a lay­ered script filled with sub­tle fore­shad­ow­ing, it’s a re­ward­ing watch.

As for that early ques­tion? Ex- Zod Shan­non doesn’t an­swer. Per­haps be­cause he knows Mid­night Spe­cial has no rel­e­vant weak­nesses. Sam Ashurst

Adam Driver’s first day on set was the day he got the news he’d be play­ing Kylo Ren in The Force Awak­ens.

Well, that scared the hitch­hiker off.

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