Midnight Special Michael Shannon, Jaeden Lieberher, Joel Edgerton. Directed by Jeff Nichols. Rated PG-13. Opens Friday in select theaters.
The first half or so of writer-director Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special is like a Hollywood sci-fi thriller with all the exposition taken out, as a pair of men flee from government agents and a mysterious cult while protecting a young boy with unexplained supernatural powers. Roy (Michael Shannon) and Lucas (Joel Edgerton) are trying to get Roy’s son Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) to an unspecified location for unspecified reasons, but the initial lack of clarity actually serves to increase the tension, even if it takes a bit of work to engage with the story. Eventually, Nichols (Take Shelter, Mud) fills in enough details to make for a satisfying climax, while leaving things vague enough not to undermine the earlier ambiguity. Whatever the nature of Alton’s powers, Special is at heart a story about the love of parents (including Kirsten Dunst as Alton’s mother) for their son, keeping him safe from danger, whether its source is human or otherworldly.