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With: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Jaeden Lieberher, Adam Driver, Bill Camp, Scott Haze, Sam Shepard, Paul Sparks, David Jensen
Written by: Jeff Nichols
Directed by: Jeff Nichols
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence and action
Running Time: 111
Date: 03/24/2016

Midnight Special (2016)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Superior Super

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Though talented indie filmmaker Jeff Nichols borrows from many established sci-fi classics, this movie tells its story in a new way, rooted in characters and emotions, embracing uncertainty and loss. Nichols (Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter, Mud) has said that he made this thoughtful sci-fi movie to help him process becoming a father, and those ideas and feelings take precedence over the details of the story. It begins without exposition; the focus is on moods, lighting, silences, and a music score filled with wonder.

An amber alert has been issued for a missing child, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), though, actually, he is with his own father, Roy (Michael Shannon), and Roy's childhood friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton). Alton has special powers. He can see things, read people's thoughts, and make things happen with his eyes. He has been taken from a kind of religious compound, whose leader (Sam Shepard), very much wants him back. Roy's plan is to get Alton to a specific destination by a specific date. Pursued by government agents, the fugitives, aided by Alton's birth mother, Sarah (Kirsten Dunst), must travel by night to protect Alton from harmful daylight. But when Alton grows sicker and requests to see the sunlight, something unbelievable is revealed.

Sci-fi buffs may feel slighted that not every detail of this particular situation is explained in full, but that's not what Midnight Special is really about. Plus, if things were solidified, it would only draw concrete comparisons to Close Encounters, E.T., Starman, the Witch Mountain series, and many other, similar stories. This Midnight is special because it's less about visual effects and more about connections, bonds that cannot be broken, and the kind of fear, bravery, and acceptance that comes through them.

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