director Jeff Nichols
Midnight Special is the first Jeff Nichols movie that I actually liked. Take Shelter (2011) and Shotgun Stories (2007) were both decent efforts, but left me unmoved. Is it maybe because Midnight Special is more explicitly science fiction, more decidedly a genre film? I don’t really know.
Michael Shannon isn’t the only through line from Take Shelter here. He’s certainly Nichol’s go-to actor and he’s a compelling screen presence almost always. But what continue through are themes of paranoia, of something supernatural or fantastical. In Take Shelter the question was whether Shannon’s character was crazy or not. In Midnight Special that question is answered rather concretely. Shannon’s son, object of adoration by a religious cult and sought after by the government agents keening into his ability to pick up secret signals, definitely has some superhuman powers.
And the government and the religious wackos are definitely after them.
Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, and Sam Shepard fill out this well-cast and and interesting film. And Jaeden Lieberher does a good job as the wonder kid.
But what does it all mean? I’m not sure that I know. The movie seems imbued with some sort of layers of intended meaning beyond the story, but then again…maybe not?
And although I found myself liking the film on the whole, more clearly than the other Nichols films I’d seen, it still felt like it was reaching for something greater than it achieves. Profundity isn’t so easily won.