Alton Meyer is a child gifted with god like abilities in a movie that turns out to be more midnight than special.
Midnight Special follows two men, Roy (Michael Shannon) and Lucas (Joel Edgerton) as they try and get young Alton away from a government agency, who have unknown but undoubtedly malicious plans for the young boy. For the most part the story is a strong, gloomy tale of a family doing all they can to survive. It struggles a little in its pacing and never quite lands its intended emotional punch, but for the majority it’s compelling enough. That is until the story takes a sudden left turn in the last act, which utterly derails the work done up to that point. it’s a sudden, jarring story and tone shift and it leads to an ending that’s underwhelming and feel, frankly, cliché.
Visually Midnight Special is lacking. The film has an American Gothic vibe running through it, with many of the scenes taking place in quaint, small town locations that sometimes feel intentionally claustrophobic. For the most part the camera work is framed well but the films use of colour is underwhelming and washed out. Its often frustrating as the film takes place in some beautiful natural locations. But with colour pallets that lack the necessary nuance, these locations just feel bland and uninteresting.
One of the highlights of the film is the portrayal of Alton by Jaden Lierberher, he’s a quiet, mysterious child who’s sudden moments of supernatural activity feel both believable and unnerving. One particular moment where he is believed to be speaking in tongues is a highlight of the film, it sends a chill down your spine, both because it’s shocking and creepy, but also because its coming from such an otherwise innocent character. It’s not often that the performance of a child actor is the strongest part of a film, but Lierberher deserves all the praise he can get.
One of the biggest issues with Midnight special is that it struggles to balance out all the different genres it’s trying to fit into. It’s got touches of thriller, horror, political commentary, family drama, science fiction and more. Some of these fit the story better than others so the movie is not always playing to its own strengths. In trying to tell a story on such a large scale it sometimes misses the brilliance in its smaller, more intimate and unnerving moments. This becomes more and more of a problem as the movie builds towards its sudden, underwhelming ending.
Midnight Special is a movie that tries to do too much with a strong core. At first it’s a compelling, intimate family drama with an interesting super natural twist. It never quite reaches the bar in terms of emotional resonance but it’s certainly captivating. But then a sudden, and unwanted story twist leads to a cliché ending that baffles the audience and sours a lot of the strong moments up to that point. There’s a kernel of brilliant here, but overall Midnight Special is a movie that becomes the victim of trying too hard.
Midnight Special scored 5.1/10