What’s the Story?
Clocking in at 1 hour, 51 minutes, Midnight Special (written and directed by Jeff Nichols) is not quite the fast-paced action vehicle its title might suggest. While it is a chase film, it’s a very cerebral one with a rather dark Twilight Zone-ish tone.
As to the plot, it follows estranged parents Roy (Michael Shannon of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire) and Sarah (Kirsten Dunst of FX’s Fargo), who along with their loyal friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton of 2014’s Exodus: Gods and Kings) race to keep young son Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) from the clutches of a mysterious religious cult and federal agents. The reason for the pursuit is Alton’s mysterious powers, the origin of which no one (until, eventually, Alton) quietly understands. All are quite good in the roles – most particularly young Lieberher as the child struggling to discover his true identity.
Rated PG-13, Midnight Special contains more violence than one would generally associate with a family film. And, while the movie does depict parental love, characters struggling to do the right thing and the triumph of hope over adversity, it does so with a minimum of humor or lightness of any kind (including daylight).
Additionally, the screenplay didn’t quite make sense to me – particularly in the middle when (spoiler alert), the feds capture Alton without also nabbing his three protectors. Why they wouldn’t take them all in escaped me.
Despite that, Adam Driver (the really bad guy in Star Wars: Episode VII) strikes a likable note as one of the federal agents the paranormally-perceptive Alton decides to trust.
All in all, Midnight Special is probably appropriate for most teens – but certainly too dark for younger kids. Adults (and teens) may appreciate the slowly-unraveling mystery of Alton’s powers. On the other hand, that unraveling may be a bit too slow for those who like their sci-fi/chase film to be a little more fast-paced and fun.
Violence: 3 (Shooting)
Discussion Topics: Discussions about the positive or dangerous side of religion and how does loving someone sometimes requires letting them go can be a good starting point especially with your teen. Also, delving into whether there’s ever a time when breaking the law is right– as this is another strong theme throughout.