Told with sincerity and cerebral grace, Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special (B+) upends many conventions of the sci-fi and supernatural genres to deliver a memorable tale. Michael Shannon is highly effective as the father of an otherworldly child (Jaeden Lieberher) and along with a buddy nicely played by Joel Edgerton is secretly transporting the precious kid cargo from a religious sect in time for some sort of day of reckoning. With Sam Shepard in a small role as leader of a cult, Kirsten Dunst as the child’s estranged mom and Adam Driver as a preternaturally wise government agent, it’s unclear if we’re preparing for abductions, alien invasions or the rapture itself. Nichols sustains a slow-burn tension and a desaturated color pallet through most of the journey and employs very few special effects, aside from the kids’ light beam eyes that look like lens flairs that would be the envy of J.J. Abrams. The story leaves a variety of unsolved mysteries but will appeal to fans of M. Night Shyamalan’s early work. The acting is so subdued that you almost yearn for someone to go a bit nuts, and the one-note child performance leaves us a bit wanting. But the film will reward fans who appreciate the indie treatment to this kind of story.
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