Saturday, 16 April 2016

Review: Midnight Special

This review is spoiler-free.

Midnight Special has been showered with praise by many critics, and so I'm quite disappointed to say that I feel the film has really let me down. Expectations were high given the strong track record of director Jeff Nichols and the impressive cast which counts Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton and Adam Driver among its number. Unfortunately though, Midnight Special ends up buckling under its own weight by setting up a mystery it can't satisfyingly solve.

Indeed, it was around halfway through the movie that I began to suspect answers to the many questions this film poses were unlikely to be revealed, and as a consequence what tension the film had began to be drained. This also wasn't helped by its plodding pace and thin characters, many of whom lacked development.

Joel Edgerton's character stands out to me as particularly odd; he explains in the film that he only has a distant relationship with Michael Shannon's character Roy, and yet he seems quite happy to put his life on the line for him and his son while being remarkably unaffected by the young boy's superhuman abilities. This kinds of oversights make these characters feel less real, and in a film focused on exploring superhuman events in a very real-world setting that becomes a problem.

Still, the actors do the best here with what they're given. The entirety of the main cast are at the top of their game right now and it shows; frequent Nichols collaborator Michael Shannon rarely lets us down, while Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton and Adam Driver are hot off of recent head-turning performances in Fargo, The Gift, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens respectively. Meanwhile, Nichols was able to find a child actor with real talent, as the young Jaeden Lieberher impresses in only one of his first main roles in a major motion picture.

There are some engaging sequences in Midnight Special, particularly in the film's earlier scenes however when the final act falls apart quite so catastrophically as it does here, it's hard to see those moments as redemption. There is really no pay off to anything in the ending Midnight Special provides, ending with a bizarre sequence intended (I assume) to be emotional and exciting but ultimately failing at being either.

The warm critical reception to this movie implies that for some Midnight Special will be a pleasing experience; however, for those looking for a coherent story that can actually answer the mysteries it sets up I would recommend looking elsewhere.


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