Midnight Special

3.5 out of 5 stars

A film best enjoyed going in as blind as possible without knowing too much, this begins in the middle of a chase that would normally constitute the third act for a more conventional thriller, and it demands its audience’s attention to pick up all the backstory, the motivations and connections, which are teased out bit by bit in the dialogue in between action sequences. By eliminating this setup which would’ve been the first 2/3 of the film, it literally cuts to the chase. The lean and economical script subtly implies or casually hints everything you’ll need to piece the narrative together and it is up to the audience to mentally do that for themselves, a bit like a cinematic jigsaw puzzle – and that, for me, is the most refreshing and fascinating thing about watching this film. It is a bit slow going at first but the film keeps the audience guessing and thus totally engaged, thanks to the assured and coherent directing and writing of Jeff Nichols and the enigmatic performance of Michael Shannon and a brilliantly chosen child actor by the name of Jaden Lieberher. Some have compared this with John Carpenter (his stylistics are certainly detectable here) and Steven Spielberg (other than the child protagonist, this comparison seem more far-fetched to me) but the best way to describe this is that this is a refreshingly cerebral take on a standard thriller and something quite special indeed. (And no, I didn’t get the title either.)

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