Movie Review: Midnight Special

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a movie trailer that really excited me. This one did:

It’s been an even longer time since the movie behind an exciting trailer lived up to its promise. This movie did.

I walked out of the theatre wanting to tell everyone who was in line to get movie tickets to skip whatever they were planning on seeing and see Midnight Special instead. On the way home, my wife and I kept repeating to each other, “That was so good.” We’ve told our friends to go see it. If you get nothing else out of this blog post, get this: Go see this movie.

It’s in limited release, so it hasn’t received all the advertising of films like Batman VS Superman, and it isn’t at that many theatres. Don’t let that deter you. It’s worth the trip.

Why, you ask? Oh, there are so many reasons!

First of all, the acting is top-notch. Amazing things are communicated nonverbally, through significant glances. Child actors often bring a movie down (think Star Wars: Episode I), but Jaeden Lieberher knocks it out of the park in his portrayal of Alton Meyer. Kirsten Dunst—yes, that Kirsten Dunst, a.k.a. MJ from Spider-Man—plays his mother, and she absolutely nails the role. All the other actors are equally terrific. Plus, we get to see Adam Driver—Kylo Ren from the newest Star Wars movie—in a much more natural, comfortable role for him. By which I mean a nerdy role:


Unlike Star Wars, where my reaction was, “Wait! That can’t possibly be Han and Leia’s kid!” here, he was perfectly cast. I completely believed him in his role as an NSA analyst. In fact, I completely believed all the characters in this movie. They were complex and real, most of them neither completely good nor completely bad. The government’s intervention was realistic and proportional. The father was exactly the kind of person you’d meet in rural west Texas.

The action in this movie was realistic and also top-notch. It proves that you don’t need to destroy entire cities to raise tension; that sometimes, an intensely personal story focused on the lives of regular people in extraordinary situations is even more intense. Fans of action movies will like how the gunfights and car chases hit out of nowhere, defying moviegoers’ normal expectations for action tropes.

Now we get to the science fiction element of the story. The movie does a great job of working us in to the strangeness of Alton Meyer. Nothing’s explained completely, but from what is divulged, you get the very strong sense that the writers have thought everything through. The result is a mystery that feels absolutely real. Special effects start out being used rarely and looking simple. As the movie goes on, they get more frequent and more elaborate, until at the end of the movie, your jaw drops to the floor.

Because those jaw-dropping special effects are paired with one of the best movie-ending payoffs I’ve ever seen. I don’t want to say too much for fear of spoiling it, but on emotional, story, and character levels, the end of the movie comes together perfectly. It truly achieves that science-fiction sense of wonder that sets the genre apart from all others.

And like the music, that sense of wonder stays with you after you leave.

In other words, go see Midnight Special. Click here and enter you ZIP code to find showtimes near you.




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