Up-and-coming director Jeff Nichol’s (‘Take Shelter’ and ‘Mud’) latest feature is the throwback 1980s-esque science fiction chase movie ‘Midnight Special,’ the tale of a young boy with special powers whose abilities made him the most wanted kid by the US government forcing him, his dad and a friend helping them to go on the lam. Made for a mere $18 million, MS is an ambitious and imaginative film with strong characterizations anchored by the performances of Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Jaeden Lieberher and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).
The movie doesn’t waste any time with exposition, beginning with the trio already on the run while a nationwide Amber Alert is in effect for their immediate apprehension. We don’t really know what’s going on, who these people really are and why they are wanted badly not only by the government but also a Branch Davidian-like religious cult. As the movie progresses, the mystery slowly unfolds and things become clearer, culminating in the grand finale when ET finally gets to go home. Well, in a manner of speaking anyway.
Foregoing geez-whiz special effects and non-stop action for strong storytelling and suspense, MS is no less compelling for its restraint as we follow our fugitives in their cross-country trek to an unknown destination that is only prophesied. Part Stephen King and part Steven Spielberg, MS has a unique mythology and freshness that’s all too rare in sci-fi these days.