MID­NIGHT SPE­CIAL

Son Is Shin­ing

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Reviews - Ian Ber­ri­man

re­leased 8 au­gust 2016 | 12 | Blu-ray/dvd Di­rec­tor Jeff Ni­chols Cast Michael shan­non, Joel edger­ton, Kirsten dunst, adam driver

Though not Jeff Ni­chols’s first foray into the fan­tas­tic – 2011’s Take Shel­ter con­cerned a man suf­fer­ing apoc­a­lyp­tic vi­sions – Mid­night Spe­cial still seems like a de­par­ture for the in­die di­rec­tor. A homage to fam­ily-friendly ad­ven­tures of the ’70s and ’80s – Ni­chols has namechecked Close En­coun­ters Of The Third Kind and Star­man; you could add Es­cape To Witch Moun­tain to the list – it uses plot el­e­ments of those movies, but tonally feels quite dis­tinct.

Michael “Zod” Shan­non plays Roy Tom­lin, whose son Al­ton (Jae­den Lieber­her) has as­ton­ish­ing, in­ex­pli­ca­ble abil­i­ties. A re­li­gious com­mu­nity re­ferred to as the Ranch see the boy as a saviour. For the gov­ern­ment he’s a sub­ject for study. Cue a chase across coun­try, with Roy will­ing to do any­thing to keep Al­ton out of their hands.

It’s a film which de­lights in with­hold­ing in­for­ma­tion – it takes quite some time to piece to­gether the slen­der syn­op­sis above – but piec­ing to­gether the puz­zle has its plea­sures. It grabs you when­ever it shifts up a cou­ple of gears – such as in a scene in­volv­ing a messy shootout and equally chaotic car chase – or re­veals more about the full ex­tent of Al­ton’s pow­ers. And though it’s frus­trat­ingly un­der­ex­plained, the fi­nale has an un­de­ni­able sense of won­der.

But emo­tion­ally it’s some­thing of a damp squib. This is prime Spiel­berg ter­ri­tory, but you won’t need a hanky. The sub­text will no doubt res­onate with par­ents, par­tic­u­larly those who’ve ever felt pow­er­less in the face of a child’s ill­ness. But it feels odd that a film like this is so re­luc­tant to ut­ter the word “love”. Roy’s bond with Al­ton is ro­bust, but com­mu­ni­cated largely through Shan­non’s in­tense glar­ing. Even cyn­ics and Spiel­berg-phobes might find them­selves wish­ing for a lit­tle less re­straint, and a spoon­ful of sen­ti­men­tal­ity.

Ex­tras Nine short, chop­pily edited EPK in­ter­views with cast and crew. At one point Al­ton asks what Kryp­tonite is. Orig­i­nally he asked about Adaman­tium; it was changed af­ter Shan­non was cast.

“And this, my son, is Don­ald Trump’s hair.”

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