Midnight Special

(USA 2016)

Midnight Special was hyped quite a bit. The previews were promising, so naturally my expectations were high.

A take on E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind and an apparent tribute to Steven Spielberg, the story is enthralling: a father (Michael Shannon) on the run with his eight-year-old son, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), comes to the realization that his son is either the messiah or an alien—and perhaps both. Whatever the deal is, Alton’s best interests clearly are not aligned with those of his father and mother (Kirsten Dunst). What’s in store when Alton gets them to their destination in a few days—if they even make it there?

Midnight Special has its moments. The acting is good all around; but Adam Driver as Paul Sevier, a federal agent, adds a nice and much needed touch of goofy, earthy warmth to the mix. Screenwriter/director Jeff Nichols maintains a steady pace and builds momentum with a suspenseful intensity that lasts until about two-thirds of the way through, but then it all grinds to a halt. The film ultimately fizzles because it goes on too long to sustain what it starts. It doesn’t help that Lieberher turns up the creepy factor a notch higher than necessary.

Midnight Special falls short: at heart, it’s a sappy movie about parenting and learning to let go. OK, I guess, but…meh. Not my thing.

111 minutes
Rated PG-13

(ArcLight) C


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