Midnight Special is a poor title. It really is. It evokes those cheap horror/thriller films seen late at night on ITV2. It is a bad title. Which is a pity, because the film itself is one of the best, most original movies of the year.
When Roy and Lukas ‘kidnap’ 8-year-old Alton from a local cult, the FBI is brought in to investigate. To the cult, Alton is their saviour; to the FBI, Alton is the biggest threat to national security. What exactly is going on?
In Midnight Special, no question is ever answered right away. Characters don’t stand around and discuss the plot, because, well, why would they? They know what they know. In fact the audience (barely) ever knows more than the characters. Rather than annoy us, this intrigues. We sit up, and we do say ‘What exactly is going on?’
Directed by Jeff Nichols (Mud, Take Shelter), Midnight Special is a thriller made by an artist. From the first moment to the last, it looks and sounds beautiful, each element bringing the already excellent script to life. Not once does it falter into ‘They took my daughter’ territory. The film is built with such an immense amount of craft that you wish all filmmakers had this skill, just so there were more excellent things in this world.
Although there is spectacle and action aplenty in Midnight Special, it is the characters (and, so, the actors) that are the real drawing point. There isn’t one false note. Michael Shannon and Joel Edgerton as Roy and Lukas respectively, are excellent examples of nuance and subtly. You spend a significant amount of time wondering whether they are what they look like: Roy all bug-eyed and twitching, Lukas with a bulldog shape to him, waiting to bite.
Midnight Special will garner comparisons to the works of Stephen King, and even Steven Spielberg. But it is more than that. It is fresh. It’s new. It’s exciting and moving. People will hate it because you can’t tweet while watching it, as you could miss one of twenty unavoidable scenes. But, you know, fuck those people. Midnight Special is an individual masterpiece.
Pity about the shit title though.