Monday, 11 April 2016
REVIEW: MIDNIGHT SPECIAL
111 Minutes. Starring: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Jaeden Lieberher & Sam Shepard. Director: Jeff Nichols.
00.00. Zero Dark. Get your Super 8's ready. It's time for a close encounter of an extra terrestrial kind. 'Midnight Special' isn't some dodgy offer at a seedy strip joint, but a 1969 Creedence Clearwater classic and a film that matches the tone and time of quintessentialy old, small town America perfectly. Let this new, fresh but vintage science fiction shine on you. Speilberg would be proud...or executive producer if he wasn't too busy green lighting and reassembling, same parts 'Transformers' junk. 'Midnight Special' is some real mid-night hour beauty, unique in its own right. Albeit taking cues from the 80's, tomorrows new world, sci-fi and UFO greats and even a little storytelling inspiration from the classic Cormac/Cohen likes of 'No Country For Old Men'. Still here in Jeff Nichols' fourth feature it looks like no world for young boys with special abilities. Because Michael Shannon is on the run from the men in black government and those "he's the second coming" small-town religious zealot types all screaming "I WILL FIND HIM" like his 'Man Of Steel' character! All about a boy who reads comics with a flashlight and has Superman eyes once he takes off those Cyclops swimming goggles. Good job Zod is on his side. Take shelter because you never know what will hit you, or come out of the sky as the great 'Mud' director gets his hands dirty with what a morally or mindful crippled or corrupt people or culture would do if they discovered something real in this science fiction new age, powered by our love of superheroes. Yet this is the real Marvel. Following brilliant and unique E.T. films like the recent '10 Cloverfield Lane' bunker find that refuse to alienate the genre, this is compelling, beautiful and just looks and feels so damn special. Damn the time...you'll want to stay up and watch this no matter the hour.
Shannon shines like the whites of his on-screen sons eyes, despite looking road and world weary in this tripping ride. He's out of this one here however with one of the signature performances of his Academy autographed career. The 'Revolutionary Road' Oscar winner and 'Boardwalk Empire' standout walks a new weathered line in these back countries. With a fork in the road from the big budget comic world he even co-starred in in this months 'Batman v Superman-Dawn Of Justice' as a corpse, he goes back to being an instantly recognisable, independent face with a body of work that is still so surprisingly so much more about quality than it is quantity (but did you see how funny we was last Christmas in 'The Night Before'?!). Exhibiting understated qualities that shouldn't be overlooked. They should be undeniable to the eyes of the soul. Like this film its indelible. This is his best pipe strong lead since his chilling classic 'The Iceman'. Going from pinstripes to Carhartt this is Shannon's coldest yet, playing a man who would give the bones of his soul to save his son. Riding shotgun to him with a blunderbuss is everyones new favourite friend Joel Edgerton in this American muscle, pumping iron on a night vision, dark highway. Here this State Trooper, last seen as an officer of law and disorder, aligning with the Boston illegal of Johnny Depp in the brilliant mainstream massacre 'Black Mass' cops another classic role. Ever since his 'Warrior' breakout win this ruling Australian has had more than a lot of fight in him. Whether chasing down leads on the 'Life' of Dane DeHaan's James Dean, or getting his light sabre duels on in 'Star Wars' this man is a force of nature. And you can file this special next to his seal in 'Zero Dark Thirty', his page turning turn in Baz Lurhman's 'The Great Gatsby' adaptation and the vastly underrated remake of 'The Thing' as his best work to date furthering his formidable filmography. Here he's worn but as tough as boot leather and tied to this out of the same sense of duty that is adopted by the patrol he ironically has to turn his back on for the greater good. Sometimes even when you go by the book you have to rip out some pages and here Edgerton is on a tear. Write that down and underline it! Matter of fact, circle it twice!
Before the dawn however there's more magic to this mid-nite hour supernova. A long way from the 'Spider-Man' days of playing school hall M.J. to Tobey Maguire's Peter Parker, Kirsten Dunst is all grown up and matured in character. Here bringing another indie gem to her stand alone career. More mothering than sunday, there is a tortured nurturing side to the woman she plays that she brings forth with real emotive compassion and raw restraint. Don't hold back...this is one of her best yet. Hair tied back and with no make up you can see who Mary Jane really is...and it's beautiful. Speaking of the science fiction world of geek Big Bangs its time for some Adam Driver girls. And the 'Star Wars' star awakens even realer acting on the lighter side of alien activity...even if some times he sounds like he's still talking through that Kylo Ren mask. I gurantee he'll finish what he started though...one hell of a big break from the small screen to the linings of the silver one. In a remarkable film of magnificent mystery and slow snake slithering suspense, which sees Nichols reunite with 'Take Shelter' star Michael Shannon (can we see Jessica Chastain in another one of this directors movies too? We'd love that almost as much as a 'Tree Of Life' reunion with Malik!), 'Mud' scene stealer Sam Shepard also stars. Albeit a little too brief, but still so brilliant. Still the pick of this A list cast has to be the kid, the young pup of this litter. Jaeden Lieberher may still be too young to make grades, but he records a star one here. As illuminating as the effects on his pupils this young man exhibits great poise and mastered maturity beyond his wonder years...perhaps a necessary trait in the Hollywood evils of this 'child star' age. By your mother, Lieberher is the genuine article. This all makes for the foundations of great fiction beyond science to something much more true...family. It's everything in this evoking epic that is as close to the heart as it is atmospheric. Sure between the air up there and all thats brought down to earth this 'Tomorrowland' and some of its plot could do with some more explaining. Or maybe that's just what makes it that more of a rare jewel. Plus when you see what's between the look of a son and his fathers eyes what more explanation do you need? You understand? Now that really is special. TIM DAVID HARVEY.