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Midnight Special

Year: 2016
Production Co: Faliro House Productions
Director: Jeff Nichols
Writer: Jeff Nichols
Cast: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Adam Driver, Kirsten Dunst, Sean Bridgers

I'd seen the trailer, but what got me most excited about this film was hearing about comparisons to the classic work of Spielberg. Shots of a kid opening his hand with light emanating from it made it even more attractive – was he an alien being harboured by sympathetic protagonists, ET style, was it the human face of a forthcoming alien invasion?

When it was all said and done, it had the particular mood Jeff Nichols wielded so well in Take Shelter, where you wondered if everything going on was in the imagination of a cracked mind, but I actually thought it got a little bit too obvious and could have done with a bit more mystery hidden behind the panhandle dust and desperate night drives to stay hidden, especially in the late stages.

Roy (Michael Shannon) and Lucas (Joel Edgerton) are on the lam with Roy's son Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), who it turns out they've kidnapped from a cult, putting them in the crosshairs not just of the law but the assassins sent after them by the cult leader (Sam Shephard) – coincidentally they're raided by the FBI thanks to some apparently seamy practices at the same time.

There are some good scenes of tension early on and the story unspools in a way that helps sustain it, but there's just too much wrong with it to really impress. The entire subplots of Adam Driver's NSA agent and Kirsten Dunst as Alton's mother feel like they were written in from unrelated short stories somewhere just to give them roles and fill up the running time.

Like Take Shelter, Nichols' script does a good job of holding back exactly what's going on for a long stretch, but after never really explaining who the kid is and why the cult wants him so badly (aside from his obvious superpowers), it then goes full CGI blockbuster spectacular in the final scene to an extent that seems to give everything away that you weren't very interested in to begin with.

You start watching an effective and tense thriller about criminals on the run who only say as much as they have to and give you no concession to learn who they are and end up watching a scene out of a Marvel movie.

Nichols is a good writer and director and Shannon and Edgerton are great actors, this is just the wrong movie to fit their unique talents.

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