With the help of my Odeon Cinema ‘Limitless’ membership, I am now using it to watch films I wouldn’t usually pay to go and see, or even watch at home to be honest. This was one of them. Only seeing one trailer, I was sold on the sci-fi aspect and a decent cast so gave it a try. Bar from it slowing down unexpectedly in the second act and me suffering a few yawns, I wasn’t disappointed on the whole.
Fronted by a dysfunctional “family” from Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst and young Jaeden Lieberher, from the start you are intrigued by them when they appear on screen. They are nothing but normal people, on the outside anyway, forced to take drastic, violent and dangerous methods all for the sake of this quirky youth, Alton. A child who reads comics by torchlight, wears turquoise goggles and sleeps with ear defenders. You already feel for him, as no child should be forced to endure the anxiety and fear Alton displays as his story progresses.
This superb and heart rendering performance by Lieberher helps fuel the rest of his family into doing anything and everything for him, despite their own moral struggle and fears. Michael Shannon says little, but acts like a coiled spring as you never know when he could explode due to the pressure he faces. One thing is solid though, his love for his son which is beautifully played by both Shannon and Lieberher, and very emotional to watch under certain circumstances.
Joel Edgerton and Kirsten Dunst both give strong, decisive and mature performances too and they really do add to the emotional but at times warmth bond these people share. With great support from Adam Driver, who is nothing like our Kylo Ren image of him, and the intense Sam Shepard as leader of the religious cult after Alton, it’s performance quality that rules the show here over narrative.
The film stars with a bang, immediately throwing you in at the deep end until answers are steadily drip-fed to you. The film ends with a bang; a thrilling, taught and emotional battle of wits, wills and determination to leave you on a somewhat down-beat, but hopeful, ending. The middle act of the film suffers the most, there seems to be a point where nothing much happens and it goes very slow and very stagnant – I can’t place why, but there is just an evident drop to the motion of it all. But once it picks up after the “sunrise” sequence, then we are in for a treat.
It could be that most of the film is set at night, for reasons you will discover, and that can be draining mentally with little to engage you except the actors and the pockets of high-drama that occur. When little is said, or done, and we have rhythmic driving to keep us hooked, it did nearly make me nod off. BUT once daylight hits for good then we are given more chances to see the world as Alton does, see more characters interact, see more gorgeous locations and experience some real exciting chase sequences.
With touches of Spielberg and Kubrick, director Jeff Nichols delivers something that can simply be classed as “very interesting” and worth a watch. As I said, I commend the acting talent and their powerful performances here as the strongest aspect to the film because if they were any weaker and less able to invest in, the film would suffer greatly. But it doesn’t, so give it a try – just don’t expect too much of it story wise.
And I still don't know why it was called 'Midnight Special'.