MIDNIGHT SPECIAL

★★

MISSING A PURPOSE

THEATRICAL REVIEW
By Jess Fenton
17th April 2016

There are a lot of things to get excited about ‘Midnight Special’ - the cast, the concept, the director. If only the sum of its parts was just as good.

Roy (Michael Shannon) and his 8-year-old son Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) are on the run. A nation-wide manhunt ensues thanks to the media, but it seems everyone wants to get their hands on the pair. The government, who believe Alton is a weapon. The Ranch - the religious sect who worship Alton - believing his powers are the work of God and will lead them to their judgment day, and be saved. Along for the ride is Roy’s childhood friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton), Alton’s mother Sarah (Kirsten Dunst) and NSA agent Paul Sevier (Adam Driver), all in need of answers to their mounting questions. The biggest question: where are they running to?

'MIDNIGHT SPECIAL' TRAILER 2

The film starts once the group are already on the run. Everything is vague yet intriguing, with just enough clues to hook you and then a few more breadcrumbs to reel you in. The kid has cool looking powers. Origin: unknown. Purpose: unknown. They’re running from two very different yet very tenacious opponents for two very different reasons. They have left their home and are willing to kill people and stop at nothing to get to their destination. Why: unknown. Damn, it’s all just so intriguing!

Subtle performances, stunning visuals, nuanced characters with backstories far greater than their present. So where does it all go wrong? About two-thirds of the way into the 112 minute film, everything we thought we knew changes. Why: unknown. What we do know is that Alton suddenly gives us a reason as to not only why he is the way that he is, but what’s going to happen once the group reach the end of their journey. And guess what? That’s exactly what happens. Wow... what a letdown. They told us half a joke, cut to the punchline and then finished the joke. What the hell!? Imagine if Aladdin stole the lamp, handed it over to Jafar and then just walked away?

If only the sum of its parts was just as good.

For everything ‘Midnight Special’ has going for it, in the end it means diddly-squat if you get to the end of the film wondering what the point of any of it was. I don’t even know why the film is called ‘Midnight Special’! As great a fan of sci-fi as I am, my imagination isn’t nearly as up to snuff as the filmmakers seem to think it is, if they believe I can fill in these holes by myself. You’ve been warned.

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