For a fanciful blend of creativity and imagination with reality and clever CGI effects, go see Midnight Special. Jeff Nichols (Mud, Take Shelter) spun this from his brain soon after he became a first-time father. When his son was a newborn he had a febrile seizure, which the author drew on for the script. Parental responsibility is one of several themes of the film, and the parents here—while outside the norm—demonstrate their love of their son in a way that is beyond that of most parents.
The movie opens with a newscast of a child kidnapping, focusing on a religious sect housed on a ranch in the community—an unusual first look. Viewers are apprised of the details gradually in a way that prolongs the suspense. In short, there are two sets of parents, not necessarily on different sides, an intense search going on led by the FBI, and a state trooper risking his life in helping a childhood friend, one of the fathers.
The reason the FBI is involved is that classified government data has been breached from a satellite meant to detect nuclear activity. Moreover, the religious group has been apprised of the government codes, has formed their religious beliefs around them, and have become convinced that a day of judgment is at hand. All this centers around a young boy named Alton (Lieberher), whom his biological father (Shannon) has in tow with the assistance of his friend (Edgerton). The religious group wants him because if he is with them, they’ll be saved on the day of judgment. Government officials are seeking the boy, who could possibly be a weapon. Alarming events can happen when the boy goes into apparent seizures, such as brilliant lights streaming down from the sky and exploding on earth.
The actor playing Alton is very effective, partly just because of his looks, which are accentuated with blue-green goggles he wears when he is reading his comic books, as well as his sheer talent. Shannon and Edgerton deliver their usual exceptional performances as the two “kidnappers”, and Dunst comes in as the boy’s mother—all of them demonstrating sensitivity to the boy’s needs despite being outliers and all looking a bit odd. Driver has his moments as the NSA’s man whose training is in his expertise in understanding religious groups and chasing down evidence and data. He has a major transformation in his encounters with this motley group of people that is cleverly inserted to help convince us of the validity of the boy’s visions.
Jeff Nichols has become one of the rare writers/directors who is able to weave reality and fantasy together while still keeping the plot tight, without holes. His and his team’s CGI is beautiful to behold, and serves a key function in depicting Alton’s surreal experience and the effects of other-world events.
A TRULY SPECIAL MIDNIGHT RIDE.
Grade: A By Donna R. Copeland