Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - WEEK IN MOVIES -

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.

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