So Midnight Special.
Please only read this if you have seen it – contains some spoilers.
I thought about acting school recently – my teacher said ‘as a protagonist you always need to lose. In all major movies, the good guy loses, even if he gains.’ I thought about major movies. My god she was right – Shawshank – he loses his wife, his freedom, his friends, Forrest Gump – he loses the love of his life and so much more, Casablanca he loses his love, Raging Bull etc you get the picture. They all lose. Got it.
And while Michael shannons’ character in Midnight Special very much loses something very important to him – I didn’t feel like Alton, his son, was losing anything.
Alton, as you may have guessed, is extremely special. The title of the movie actually refers to a late night news report about the fact he is missing. A man, played by Michael Shannon, appears to be missing with him. His importance isn’t stressed at first, but you guessed it – he’s his father. Alton does a lot of screaming and crying and shooting bright effervescent blue laser beams out of his eyes for no apparent reason. It’s certainly mysterious, interesting. But when the thing happens that is supposed to split us apart as an audience – it doesn’t happen. There was no struggle, no sadness at leaving his human* birth* ? parents. The thing about ET was that he knew he had to go home – but he had bonded with Elliott – it was going to be a struggle – he was going to miss his friend. This is what tugs at the heartstrings, this is what moves you, this is what causes that conflict in ourselves. As an audience we are completely invested, and devastated really, that this friendship and bond gets terminated. You all blubbed watching ET too, admit it.
While Midnight Special was tense – and it certainly was -the tension is ratcheted up beautifully, to the point where you are almost uncomfortable, squirming in your cinema seat. The thing is, I didn’t feel very much else. I didn’t feel sad. I didn’t feel turmoil at the predicament. The parents had completely, almost matter of factly, accepted the fact that their son was probably going to be jetting off to another plane. I didn’t feel anything from Alton – the boy. He told his parents not to worry. But he was quite happy to bugger off back to his people.
And although Michael Shannon has a very intense face – and his face is perfect for these odd, tortured parts due to his very bizarre, almost boggly eyed look- I was almost distracted to the point of not getting much else from him. It was a stress for sure, having the FBI on your arse, trying to capture your other-worldly son, but what else was going on? I didn’t get the layers (did you Mary Berry?) No offence to Mr. Shannon, I think he’s a good actor, but I wasn’t receiving the subtext. He was always so tense, that anything else was almost inaccessible.
I also didn’t really get a sense of why he was where he was as a character. Why had his son been adopted? Had he been a bit of a crap father and then had an attack of guilt last minute? Was it because he left the creepy cult acrimoniously? Having not brought up his son, was this why he was seemingly so detached?
Joel Edgerton on the other hand was fantastic. I felt the most from him. His guilt about the storm trooper they shot, the concern about the boy’s health, his empathy at the family that couldn’t be – shown by very subtle actions, basically you could read his face like a book. He’s very good at emoting. Not what I expected, having just seen Exodus, in which he was fine but the character was a brash buffoon (and hard to accept as an Egyptian when he looked more like an eastern European wearing eye liner ha.) But he did impress me in this. I could see someone like Jake Gyllenhaal taking the part of the father (had he been older.) He would have been good too.
I will say that this film was super compelling. It’s a chase movie really, with supernatural elements. A road movie without the popcorn and soundtrack. An ‘us against them,’ the ‘little guy versus ‘the man.’
There is a wonderful reveal at the end, I won’t go so far as to say ‘twist’ and I certainly won’t say what it is (even though this review pretty much has ruined it for you all anyway.)
Midnight Special is definitely worth the watch. If you have seen it, please let me know what you thought, in the comments below.
And if you haven’t seen ET, then get a hold of yourself, and go and watch it immediately – it’s a master class in how to do it