When a film has been described as a sci-fi chase movie, you expect it to be a brainless high-octane thriller, but Midnight Special could not be further from that.
Yes, it has sci-fi elements, but at its heart, it is about family, the lengths parents will go to for their children and what it means to be different.
The young Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) has special powers and he has been worshipped by a religious cult for many years, until his father Roy (Michael Shannon) breaks him out of the ranch. Alton must reach a particular destination at a certain date and time to fulfil an unknown prophecy.
However, the journey to the location is not easy. Roy and his childhood friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton) have members of the cult on their tail while Government agents, lead by Paul (Adam Driver), are tracking them down to figure out how Alton can communicate and interfere with satellites, and even bring one crashing down to Earth.
Also coming along for the adventure is Sarah (Kirsten Dunst), Alton’s mother, who has not seen him for two years after she was excommunicated from the cult.
Midnight Special does not explain what is going on for the viewer, you have to work it out yourself throughout the course of the movie. You have no idea where they are going, why and what is up with Alton in the beginning, and by the end, a few things are still unanswered.
It is quite slow and takes a while to build, but it is worth it for the intense second half and touching ending. It is never boring – there are chases, gun fights, and Alton’s powers to keep us entertained.
This has enough sci-fi elements to make genre fans happy but it is not brainless blockbuster fare. It is smart, mysterious and forces the audience to use their imagination. It only had a budget of $18 million (£13 million), which is nothing for a sci-fi, so it uses understated visual effects – there are no big CGI sequences, insane stunts and the action remains firmly on Earth.
Alton’s abilities are odd but intriguing. He constantly wears goggles over his eyes to stop light beam shooting out, he cannot be in the sunlight, and he can hear different radio stations in his mind. Lieberher is an adorable kid so you begin to feel concerned when the powers start physically affecting his health.
The family drama at the centre is what resonates the most. Shannon and Dunst play the parents who want what is best for their kid, even if that means letting him go. Dunst is the emotional heart of the movie and puts in one of her best performances in a long time. Driver is equally brilliant as the awkward nerd, who brings some much-needed lightness to the film.
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