Midnight Special (2016)

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Jeff Nichols directs Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton and Kirsten Dunst in this sci-fi road movie.

Some films just should stay a great poster or a great trailer. Kid with blue googles and superpowers is chased by everyone but  protected by his family through the highways, motels and gas stations of the South. Should be great. Kinetic, soulful, gritty. Moment by moment Midnight Special is a finely acted and carefully made film but it finally adds up to very little and skirts the dull hard shoulder too often overall. Riffing on Starman, Flight of the Navigator and D.A.R.Y.L. but carrying over a bit too much of that 80s cycle’s grim mysticism, Midnight Special forgets the fun and the excitement. You’ve got a cult, all the government agencies and possibly even something beyond the stratosphere pursuing our family yet they all feel benign threats – road bumps on the journey rather than killers on the road. There’s no real sense of peril as the cast trundles to a destination where we know something big will happen… but not what. Action comes in the form of juddering interruptions of surprise crashes, satellite debris showers and traffic jam kidnappings but none of these emergency set pieces seem to have any lasting effect on the plot, they are just shocker jolts to make this seem like something more worth your time than National Lampoon’s Cosmic Vacation. Then we final arrive at the M. Night Shyamalan and it is underwhelming to say the least. All the cast are better than this and the goodwill from previous sterling work makes up for stoic inertia of their parts here. Not in anyway a bad film but one that forgets both the “midnight” and the “special”, which to me is unforgivable given the title.

5

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