5 Reasons to watch "Midnight Special"
Writer: Casey Lee
Are you ready for "Midnight Special"?
When his 8-year-old son, Alton, is found to have inexplicable supernatural powers, Roy Meyer is forced to take his son on the road with the help of his state trooper and childhood friend, Lucas. While on the run from the authorities, their destination is to an unknown location by a certain date when a celestial event is to take place where Alton must be present.
Director Jeff Nichols
"Midnight Special" is the much anticipated fourth feature film of writer/director Jeff Nichols since 2012's "Mud", and there are already many special things to expect for Nichols' fourth outing than his previous films. Although it is a return of Nichols to the sci-fi drama genre since "Take Shelter", fans would know that the stories Nichols chooses to tell is more than just the genre trappings, but with deeply rooted characters to make a fascinating character study.
If you are on the edge of whether you should see "Midnight Special" (if you haven't seen any of Jeff Nichol's previous works), here we present five reasons why you should watch it.
(Photo Source: Wired.com)
Jeff Nichols may be one of the most distinguished directors of this generation. Already establishing his fame in the indie world after the stunning Saturn-winning "Take Shelter", and even going on to challenge for the Cannes Palm d'Or with then Oscar-brimming Matthew McConaughey in "Mud", anyone who has seen either of those films can attest to Jeff Nichols' prowess as a director who relies on the subtler arts of filmmaking and storytelling; immersing us with a layered thematic (somehow always revolving around parental ties), careful cinematography, and bringing out powerful performances from adult and child actors alike.
"Midnight Special" may have Jeff Nichols' most big named cast to date, starring A-listers Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Joel Edgerton and Nichols' favourite, Michael Shannon. Aside from a cast that promises at least a solid performance, all eyes will be on this fourth collaboration between Shannon and Nichols. They have made many films together and it is through Nichols' films where we have seen Shannon's best performances (which remind us how underrated he is).
Since "Take Shelter", Nichols' films have also had children taking important, if not central (see "Mud"), roles in his films, even more so in "Midnight Special" with young actor Jaeden Lieberher. Nichols has made it a point not to cast experienced child actors for his younger roles, but his bravery of casting children has so far hugely paid off, and we don't think he could do any less for "Midnight Special".
Aside from being a poignant director, another major strength of Nichols is definitely found in his writing. Having written and directed all of his films to date, his stories are usually informed by a profound emotion that he wants to deliver to his audiences. For "Midnight Special", what started out as an idea for a midnight car chase was spun together with his own experience after witnessing his own child going through a rare form of seizure. With thoughts on the purpose of becoming a father and the extent the role a father could have in a child's life, you can be sure that these are some of the heavier themes of fatherhood that are being explored in "Midnight Special", hidden in the intense and mysterious premise of a father-and-son on the run to an unknown future.
First studio production
Jeff Nichol's name may already be well received among those who are part of the indie following, but the name wouldn't register to a mainstream audience. Hopefully, that is about to change with "Midnight Special" as this will be his first studio production that will be marketed by the studio machine. Strange as it may sound, it was actually Nichol who went ahead to propose "Midnight Special" to the executives at Warner Bros. and was given the thumbs up to make the movie under their banner. As to worries that Nichol may had to compromise some of his creative freedom for a studio budget (of about a sizable USD40 million), Nichols has stated that he was given final cut on the film, so all that you see on screen is what he had intended it to be.
A homage to 80s sci-fi
Growing up on the science fiction movies of Steven Spielberg from the 80s, "Midnight Special" is Jeff Nichol's homage to that era of filmmaking. With inspirations from John Carpenter's "Starman" and Spielberg's own "Close Encounter of the Third Kind", audiences are sure to recognise some of the similarities in the premise and the arc that the characters will be going through, but touched with the brilliance of Nichols' characterisation and sentiments.
Cinema Online, 16 April 2016