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Midnight Special


Stars: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Jaeden Lieberher, Sam Shepard, Bill Camp, Scott Haze, Paul Sparks, David Jensen

Director: Jeff Nichols

Early on I started to wonder why there was such a relatively long pre-title sequence (no names other than that of the film when it finally arrived) until I realised that Midnight Special – like almost every single movie these days – is ultimately destined to be shown on television.

Which means, of course, that the potential audience needs to be properly hooked early on, prior to the vital first commercial break.

So give writer/director Jeff Nichols praise for creating an opening sequence that grabs you and promises plenty. Sam Shepard briefly appears as the preacher-leader of a bizarre cult invaded in mid sermon by US government agents and the storyline thickens and quickens when we meet frequent Nichols collaborator Michael Shannon who, desperate to protect his uniquely and bizarrely gifted 8-year-old-son Jaeden Lieberher, who is given to emitting piercing rays of blue-ish light from his eyes, kidnaps the boy and, with friend Joel Edgerton, goes on the run from the authorities…

So far, so compelling.

But do you remember E.T., Spielberg’s overrated science fiction drama with its echoes of familiar Disney-esque movies about youngsters determined save their favourite pets from the authorities?

Or, how about The Midwich Cuckoos (filmed as Village of the Damned) with its strange, clearly more than human youngsters?

As the story continues on its brisk science-fiction thriller way and becomes in essence a well-enough-made B feature, it seemed rather clear to me that Nichols recalled these and other previous genre clichés in coming up with his storyline.

Result? Sadly, a tad too familiar.

I was never too bored, Lieberher, and Adam Driver’s geeky CIA interrogator, held my attention and the climactic special effects were effective. while Kirsten Dunst was wasted (her talent, not her frame!)

But that said, my final reaction was that of disappointment.

(If you happen to wonder why the 'alien' youngster has a scene in which he is introduced to Superman and Kryptonite, the solution is simple - Midnight Special was produced by Warners and presumably any boost for Batman v Superman was both useful and necessary).

Alan Frank

USA 2016. UK Distributor: EntertainmentOne. Colour.
111 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 09 Apr 2016