Midnight Special

Rated 4.0

Michael Shannon, who has appeared in all of director Jeff Nichols’ films, plays Roy, father to young Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), a mysterious boy who must wear goggles all of the time due to fits where his eyes shoot out blinding light. He has the power to down satellites, to channel radio broadcasts, and to transmit military secrets. So, yeah, the government is after him, and the Texas cult he grew up in sees him as some sort of prophet. Roy takes Alton away from the cult, led by the forever haggard Sam Shepard, races towards some undetermined location, because he knows his boy is important and that mystery meeting with something or other is important. Nichols cleverly keeps much of his movie shrouded in mystery, with some questions never getting clear-cut answers. Movies that spell everything out for you can be very boring. The film has elements of Duel, E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind on the Spielberg front, with the mystery and wonder of the best Twilight Zones. It also has the look and feel of some of Clint Eastwood’s best offerings, the dramatic intensity of Scorsese films, and even the better aspects of last year’s poorly received Tomorrowland. And, yet, it feels very original. Shannon is typically strong as the worried yet emotionally closed-off father who doesn’t have all of the answers but will do everything he can to help his son. Joel Edgerton gives his best performance to date as Lucas (yep … a George Lucas homage), a former state trooper along for the ride. Kirsten Dunst plays Alton’s mysterious birth mother. There’s also Adam Driver as the sympathetic government guy (think Peter Coyote in E.T.) in full nerd mode, doing much to make us forget that sinister villain he played in that little indie film that came out last year. Nichols is, quite simply, one of the finest directors making movies today. If you haven’t seen Take Shelter or Mud, and consider yourself a film connoisseur, then get on it.