MIDNIGHT SPECIAL once again teams thoughtful writer-director Jeff Nichols with his favored leading man, the great Michael Shannon. Other fine actors come along for Nichols 112-minute science-fiction story, a neat idea that, like a lot of neat ideas, talks itself a good game before trailing off into the vast Inner Space region of intriguing but unfulfilled muses.
Eight-year old ‘Alton’ (Jaeden Lieberher) has special powers. A religious cult thinks he’s their messiah. The government wonders how sermons from the cult reflect encoded satellite transmissions. Alton’s dad (Shannon) and a friend (Joel Edgerton) take the boy and flee the cult and the pursuing FBI, meeting up with Mom (Kirsten Dunst) while trying to get Alton to a rendezvous with some kind of cosmic destiny.
Nichols shoots for a larger, loftier scale than his previous Take Shelter and Mud, and in a conscious homage to Close Encounters Of The 3rd Kind, E.T. and Star Man. The mix of science-fiction genre piece with chase-movie and some mystery works quite well until the climax, which goes a bit off the grid, not so wobbly as to wreck things (it looks cool enough) but dramatically slack after the steady tension that led the plot to that point. Cast, direction, settings, photography, music and special effects are all solid.
Approvingly reviewed, even with a trim budget of $18,000,000 it didn’t find an audience, making only $6,200,000. With Adam Driver, Sam Shepard, Paul Sparks, Bill Camp and Scott Haze. 2016 was a busy year for Michael Shannon, racking up ten film assignments.