Blu-ray Review: Midnight Special

Release Date: June 21, 2016
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 111 minutes

Writer/director Jeff Nichols proves again that he is one of the most compelling storytellers of our time with the sci-fi thriller “Midnight Special.” A provocative, genre-defying film as supernatural as it is intimately human, “Midnight Special” follows a father, Roy (Michael Shannon), who goes on the run to protect his young son, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), a boy with mysterious powers that even Roy himself cannot comprehend. 

What starts as a race from religious extremists and local law enforcement quickly escalates to a nationwide manhunt involving the highest levels of the Federal Government. Risking everything, Roy is committed to helping Alton reach his ultimate purpose, whatever that might be and whatever it costs, in a story that takes audiences on a perilous journey from Texas to the Florida coast, while exploring the bonds of love and trust, and the nature of faith.

Before I watched Midnight Special, I had very high expectations. I had heard nothing but good things about the movie and couldn’t visit a movie blogger’s space without them talking about the incredible twist at the end. I managed to stay away from spoilers until I watched…

Well, after watching the movie, I can say that while I do appreciate the work here, maybe my high expectations ruined the ending for me. The twist was for me, merely a sci-fi revelation that I’d expect to be wowed by so when it came, I was in awe for about two minutes but after that, nothing. I thought, “That’s it? Huh. We could have gotten there in a much more fascinating way.”

Watching the movie again after some time has passed, I can say that I appreciate the revelation more than I did the first time around. But I can’t say the journey (which was too slow moving and not as developed as I’d have liked, plus the character of Sevier was all too tropey) was worth getting to that point. I love the revelation but all that led up to it, eh. Not impressed.

I get the simplicity and less is more approach here. I usually like that approach, actually. The film was layered with the right ingredients… the otherworldly mystery,  them vs. escaping a religious compound, them vs. being on the run from the government, family and the bonds outside of family that tie us together forever. It just wasn’t layered enough.

Midnight Special is a dark and intriguing sci fi movie, it’s a thrilling “government chase movie” as writer/director, Jeff Nichols calls it. Its layers together are just not as compelling as I’d hoped them to be. We get just enough if we want to dig deeper and analyze on our own but nothing more. I loved the revelation, the payoff but for some reason it feels unearned. Dare I say it’s too ambiguous…which is funny because I’m typically all about ambiguity. And it lacked heart.

The ending is full of wonder but with a film that coasts on that very idea, with little depth throughout, it just doesn’t work for me. It was all sci-fi and no heart and part of the reason why I love sci-fi so much is because of the heart behind it. So this disappointed in more ways than one and while I can’t say that I’d recommend this movie, I would very much like to know what you thought if you’ve seen it! It’s definitely a conversation starter, that’s for sure.

Bonus Features:
Origins (Approx. 13 minutes) – This feature is broken down by the character; Roy, Lucas, Sarah, Alton, and Sevier, with the option to play all. If you’ve seen the movie, you already have a good idea of who these characters are so this feature isn’t really important unless you want to hear what you already know from the writer/director of the film.

Appearing in This Feature:
Writer/Director, Jeff Nichols
Cast Members, Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton, Jaeden Lieberher, Adam Driver

*  The Unseen World (Approx. 5 minutes) – This is your typical edit of the cast and crew talking about the film, in this case, moreso the world of the story. It doesn’t get too in depth so it never reaches its potential of being incredibly interesting.

Appearing in This Feature:
Writer/Director, Jeff Nichols
Producer, Sarah Green
Cast Members, Joel Edgerton, Jaeden Lieberher, Michael Shannon

Own Midnight Special on Blu-ray, DVD, or Digital HD today.