Midnight Special is one of those films that didn’t grab me from the trailer but then I read only good word about it.
The brief premise is that a young boy called Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) has been staying with am evangelical cult led by Calvin Meyer (Sam Shepard), and now he’s been kidnapped/rescued (depending on the characters’ points of view – depends how you look at it, at the start) by his father, Roy (Michael Shannon), and his friend, Lucas (Joel Edgerton).
Midnight Special is a film which reveals its hand bit by bit, slowly and masterfully. Some secret government information is obtained somehow, hence the FBI’s interest, and Meyer tells them, “It won’t be easy, but we want to get him back in time” and “Y’all have no clue what you’re dealing with, do you?”
So, what will happen on Friday, March 6th? Why is that date significant? Often, the mystery is enough, but then it also throws in added spectacle. There’s a lot of weird stuff in this film that you’ll either go with or you won’t, so put on your ‘suspension of disbelief’ hat and enjoy.
The ideas in this film aren’t entirely original (it dropped to an 8 from a 9, for this), and I don’t want to mention the names of any other films it reminded me of, to make you start thinking of those before you watch this, but every member of the cast is on-point and the acting is believable to make you feel that what you are watching could happen, and also that you want to follow their journey to its conclusion.
Of writer/director Jeff Nichols‘ previous works, I’ve only seen Mud, in which Matthew McConaughey was convincing as his drifter character, but the rest of it lacked focus. However, everything comes together very nicely in Midnight Special, and with a budget of just $18m, delivering some more impressive visuals and sound effects (plus a memorable score) than a lot of big-budget movies, it won’t be long before Nichols is lighting up Hollywood’s skies.
And an observation I’ll throw behind a spoiler header…
The film is presented in the original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high definition and the visuals are stunning and any print that can get every chiseled line in Michael Shannon’s face has to be proof of a good transfer.
The audio is presented here in Dolby Atmos, giving the speakers get a good workout from time to time, and with all the sci-fi weirdness that starts going on, it’s all about the bass, as your subwoofer will hum more than week-old pants (that’s GOOD in this case!)
The main extras are cast and crew interviews. Annoyingly, there’s no ‘play all’ options, so you’ve got to keep going back to the menu to see more of them. Also annoyingly, they’re the standard Q&A interviews, where the Q is a caption and the A is given by the person in question – the sort of thing that could easily be slotted into Breakfast TV clips. I’ve said before that a lot of studios do this, but it comes across as unnatural. They’re also crazy short.
The interviews come from Michael Shannon (3:11), Joel Edgerton (4:21), Kirsten Dunst (3:24), Adam Driver (1:50), Jaeden Lieberher (1:41), Sam Shepard (3:15), Jeff Nichols (8:19), and producers Brian Kavanaugh-Jones (3:13) and Sarah Green (3:55).
There’s also an audio descriptive track which does exactly what it says on the tin.
It’s also one of those discs that disables the D-pad and joystick controls on a PS4. Similarly, if you don’t watch the film in full and want to come back to it the next day, switching off your machine in the meantime, the disc is programmed so that it does not resume from where you left off. Instead, you’re back to the beginning of the menu with the bane of the old days of video – sitting through adverts BEFORE THE FILM!! PUT THEM IN THE MAIN MENU!!
Why they have to faff around with these, I don’t know.
The main menu features clips from the film set against the theme. There are subtitles in English and chapters amount to 16, which is better than most releases out there, but I never say no to more. I personally prefer one approximately every five minutes.
Running time: 112 minutes
Released: August 8th 2016
Studio: Entertainment One
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: Dolby Atmos, 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio, DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Anamorphic Panavision)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Jeff Nichols
Producers: Sarah Green and Brian Kavanaugh-Jones
Screenplay: Jeff Nichols
Music: David Wingo
Roy: Michael Shannon
Lucas: Joel Edgerton
Sarah: Kirsten Dunst
Sevier: Adam Driver
Alton: Jaeden Lieberher
Calvin Meyer: Sam Shepard
Doak: Bill Camp
Levi: Scott Haze
Agent Miller: Paul Sparks
Elden: David Jensen
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.