Midnight Special

What if a cult’s prediction about a looming apocalyptic happening is correct? Midnight Special humors this premise, while also keeping the vibe mysterious and uncertain. Something will happen on March 6 involving supernaturally powered eight-year-old Alton, but nobody knows just what that something is. (Spoiler: The fact that it remains unknown means both nothing and everything.)

With Alton, his parents, and his dad’s friend on the run from the cult and federal agents, Midnight Special asserts itself as an indelible mix of eye-in-the-sky sci-fi and laconic chase movie. Director Jeff Nichols has earned auteur status; his influences (ET, Close Encounters of the Third Kind) are unmistakable, but his style is uniquely his own. There are not very many movies in which supernatural powers can be interpreted as meta trope awareness – Alton’s sense that the NSA agent played by Adam Driver (adorably all-business) is the guy he needs to talk to is basically a way of saying, “Okay, let’s move the story along.” There are elements that could make Midnight Special annoying or derivative, but it is so calm and its performances are so lived-in that it instead manages to be welcoming and challenging in a matter-of-fact way.

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