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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Midnight Special 2016 * * Stars

Midnight SpecialDirector: Jeff Nichols
Year: 2016
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Michael Shannon, Adam Driver, Joel Edgerton

The actors/actresses speak in annoying monotones, the musical score is ominous, everything in frame takes itself way too seriously, and Mud's Jeff Nichols creates such a dark atmosphere making it hard to tell what's exactly going on. That's the vibe I got from 2016's Midnight Special (my latest review). In truth, "Special" is an overrated swipe of slight, sci-fi mumbo jumbo. The critics have seemed to embrace it. This one can't. Give me the less cynical, less violent E.T. or 1984's Starman as an acceptable opposition.

For kicks-and-giggles, CCR's beloved tune of the same name doesn't make "Special" any more satisfying. The song is redone in the closing credits, made to be more solemn and made to be a laughable wink wink for the last hour and 51 minutes.

Slow-moving yet edited prematurely with a decent enough cast (Michael Shannon, Adam Driver, and an unrecognizable Kirsten Dunst), Midnight Special doesn't exactly move you. It's a cold film, deemed strictly for the military front. Yeah there is some admirable storytelling and reasonable direction, but there's literally no background on the characters and their bellicose motivations.

Here's the gist: I used "Special's" wiki page to figure out the true plot workings and discovered that this movie takes place in Louisiana, Texas, and Florida. It's about a boy (or I guess alien) who has some special, unworldly powers. His dad (Roy Tomlin played by Michael Shannon) is part of a religious cult and when the people there find out about the light coming from his son's eyes (Alton played effectively by The Confirmation's Jaeden Lieberher), well Roy escapes said cult with Alton and his friend, Lucas (played by Joel Edgerton who seems to be in everything these days). An amber alert is in effect as all kinds of authorities want to arrest the two men while capturing Alton to find out what really makes him tick. Ultimately, Alton has to get to a place where he can confront other extraterrestrial hosts and be the subject of a tumulus world event to occur. If it all sounds familiar, it is. If you think this thing trades decent production values with ho-hum, appreciable momentum, well it does. "Special" was released in March with its box office take being pretty weak (6.2 million worldwide). I don't blame the average moviegoer whose word of mouth was obviously voiced.

Stylish yet silly, well-intentioned yet overly dramatic, you can call Midnight Special Close Encounters of the "irrelevant" Kind. It didn't quite "shine a light on me." Rating: 2 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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