Sunday, June 19, 2016

Video review: "Midnight Special"

“Midnight Special” is a little science fiction indie that you probably haven’t heard of. It got talked up a lot among film geeks, turned heads on the festival circuit, but then was dumped into theaters without fanfare – or even bothering to screen it for critics.

It quickly disappeared, earning about $6 million against an $18 million budget.

Hopefully it’ll find the audience it deserves on video. While the movie has some flaws, it’s an engaging and offbeat supernatural mystery/thriller featuring some fine actors. The pacing is a little off -- the filmmakers hold onto their secrets too tightly and for too long, then overwhelm us with sudden revelations. But it’s got a verve of originality so often missing from this genre.

Michael Shannon plays Roy, a determined man on the run with is son, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), who is 8 years old and… peculiar. He wears dark glasses all the time, never goes out in the sunlight and is regarded by others with a mix of fear and awe. Tagging along is Lucas (Joel Edgerton), a former cop who acts as their knight-errant protector.

I won’t get into all the convolutions of the plot, but suffice to say they are both running away from something and running toward something. Men from The Ranch, an end-times cult that Roy and Alton used to belong to, are in pursuit along with the law.

Kirsten Dunst turns up later as Alton’s mother, who’s been in hiding. Adam Driver plays a sympathetic scientist trying to puzzle out Alton’s mystery. Sam Shephard plays the eerily charismatic Ranch leader.

Strange portents are all around, and there’s a giddy feeling like the movie could slip off in any number of directions.

Writer/director Jeff Nichols (“Mud,” “Take Shelter”) is an original voice who deserves to be heard. Though “Take Shelter” doesn’t quite have the emotional punch of his earlier movies, here is a filmmaker who thinks outside the lines.

Bonus features are… interesting. Instead of the usual making-of documentary or commentary track, both the DVD and Blu-ray versions have five “Origins” featurettes on each of the five main characters. There’s also another featurette, “The Unseen World,” on the film’s metaphysical musings.



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