Director: Jeff Nichols (Mud) Starring: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Jaeden Lieberher, Kirsten Dunst Verdict: Running from mysteries, towards an enigma
INTREPID, deep-digging film fans have had American writer-director Jeff Nichols marked down as a name to watch for quite some time.
Nichols’ last film, Mud, was only his third feature outing, and close to the best thing released in 2012.
If you missed it at the time of release, be sure to go back and take a look.
Mud’s superior command of rich atmosphere and raw performances established the novice writer-director as the equal of Steven Soderbergh and Christopher Nolan at the same formative phase of their careers.
While Nichols’ much-anticipated new work Midnight Special will not be the film to break him through to a wider audience, there are enough unique qualities in play to suggest his time is drawing tantalisingly near.
A cryptic chase movie dotted and dashed with coded sci-fi flourishes that recall Steven Spielberg’s great Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Midnight Special is not an easy work to describe or process.
The story begins shortly after the abduction of a small boy from the headquarters of a religious cult in the Deep South. The young child answers to the name of Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), and could not be more than 10. While Alton doesn’t say much, he does seem quite at ease with his two very agitated kidnappers.
One of them is Alton’s father. Just why Roy (Michael Shannon) has made a run for it across state lines with his estranged child is one Midnight Special.
Once they do, the scene is properly set for an audacious finale which is arguably the only reason the film exists at all.
It is one of those high-degree-ofdifficulty endings that only barely “sticks the landing”. Nevertheless, most viewers will never ever forget this unworldly sequence, nor perhaps ever fully understand it.