Midnight Special came out earlier this year, but never came to a theater around here. The closest I came to this film was when I was in Des Moines for a conference for work, I saw that this was at the theater there. Sadly, I did not have the opportunity to get out of the conference to see a movie.
However, I found it on YouTube the other day, so I rented it there and gave it a look.
An Amber Alert was issued for a young boy named Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) who was taken from a cult-like compound by his birth father, Roy (Michael Shannon) and Roy’s friend, Lucas (Joel Edgerton). Right away, we know that there are special things about this child. He wore goggles all the time, they had to travel by night, and Alton could not be in the sun.
Roy reunited Alton with the birth mother, Sarah (Kirsten Dunst) and the three of them were trying to keep Alton away from the cult. However, there was more to worry about than just the cult. The Federal government had become interested in the boy and were in pursuit of him as well. Sevier (Adam Driver), from Homeland Security, was brought in as an expert, though he seemed as confused as anyone.
We would find out that Alton had special abilities that included eyes that lit up, the ability to control electronics, and to pick up radio transmissions. Eventually, Alton realized where he belonged, and his mother and father struggled to get him there.
We have seen this story in many other science fiction movies before. There are elements of ET the Extra Terrestrial here, with Alton playing the role of ET. There are also similar concepts in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Tomorrowland.
The strength of this film is in its ensemble cast. Michael Shannon is exceptional as a father desperate to save his son from all of the people who are determined to control the boy. Shannon brought a heart wrenching performance here, as it was clear that, in order to save the boy, he was going to have to give him up.
Also, this film would not work if Alton did not work as a character. Fortunately, Jaeden Lieberher, fresh off a great performance opposite Bill Murray in St. Vincent, brings it to this role. The young boy plays the confusion of Alton beautifully, and really transforms as he realizes where he belongs. Lieberher dominated a scene later in the film with Adam Driver and the young actor showed a great presence on screen.
Although, having the federal government chasing after the family seems kind of cliche for this movie. Maybe if it were only Adam Driver’s character doing the chasing, sure of what he believes, the plot element wouldn’t feel so used.
Then, the cult aspect of this film was a real failure. It seemed to be an important part of the first act, but the cult story fell along the sideline without any real pay off. It would have been more interesting to see the cultists, who believed that Alton was the key to their religious beliefs, pursue the boy and become a bigger piece of the story instead of the government.
Though much of this film feels like we have seen it before, the performances of the cast do a great job of overcoming some lapses in the story to create an emotional journey for Alton and his family. I am definitely glad that I finally had a chance to see this.