"Faith Isn’t Seeing; Faith Is Believing"
What You Need To Know:
MIDNIGHT SPECIAL is a very effective drama with an excellent performance by Michael Shannon as the father. The movie addresses the topics of faith, parenthood, and identity, though it covers the story’s spiritual/fantastic elements with as much ambiguity as possible. That said, the movie’s moral, redemptive values of sacrifice, family bonds, faith, and understanding one’s true identity are strong. MIDNIGHT SPECIAL has very little foul language. However, some action violence and one strong profanity warrant caution for older children.
(BB, C, O, FR, L, VV, A) Strong moral worldview with some redemptive content includes values such as sacrifice, family bonds, faith, and understanding one’s true identity, some allusions to main character being a Christ figure are debatable, and a spiritual world with invisible beings exists above the real one, which could resemble angels, but the vague supernatural world also has elements of New Age mysticism; two obscenities and one profanity; multiple people are shot but not fatally, an intense car crash leaves two men battered; no sexual content; no nudity; light drinking; no smoking or drug references; and, no other immoral content.
MIDNIGHT SPECIAL is a peculiar science fiction drama with a strong emotional core and a grand supernatural premise that leads to some interesting questions with no intentions of answering them. Directed by relative newcomer Jeff Nichols after his indie hit MUD, MIDNIGHT SPECIAL may grow some interest from people of faith, but not enough to become a hit.
Roy (Michael Shannon) is on the run with his 8-year-old son, Alton, and his childhood friend, Lucas (Joel Edgerton). Roy, who’s been a member of a Texas religious sect (in the vein of the real life Warren Jeff’s) since childhood, fled after the group’s abuse of Alton, who has special abilities. The sect isn’t the only one after Roy and Alton. Aware of Alton’s unique abilities and concerned about the possible danger they represent, the FBI is hot on their tail and puts out an Amber alert for Alton. They bring on NSA Agent Paul Sevier (Adam Driver) to lead the task force to catch them.
Alton’s abilities, which are more like strange occurrences than powers, include a mental connection to radio waves (including secure military frequencies), control of electronic devices and a beam of blinding light that exudes from his eyes. Because the sun makes Alton unstable, causing the ground to shake, Roy, Lucas and Alton travel by night. Lucas, a state trooper, was recruited to help protect Alton after he saw what he can do.
The only solid information Roy has is a date and location related to Alton’s mysterious powers. Can they reach the location before they’re caught? Will they discover what Alton really is?
MIDNIGHT SPECIAL is a very effective science fiction drama. The superb actor Michael Shannon beautifully exhibits the struggle of a father trying to protect his son at all costs, while grappling with Alton’s extreme circumstances. At its core, the relationship touches on a father’s struggle to let his son enter into his own identity and calling, and be willing to sacrifice himself if need be. Shot like an indie project, with gritty realism like MUD, the movie’s science fiction background has similarities to recent movies such as THE KNOWING and TOMORROWLAND, although Director/Writer Jeff Nichol draws more inspiration from John Carpenter’s 1984 classic, STARMAN, starring Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen.
(SPOILERS FOLLOW) The worldview revolving Alton’s purpose and identity is intentionally ambiguous. The religious sect believes him to be a savior while the government thinks he’s a weapon. When Alton fully embraces his identity by quite literally exposing himself to the sunlight, he reveals he’s neither. He explains there’s a world above our world, where we are watched and observed. Alton belongs in that world, and both his father and mother do everything they can to get him there. In the end, Alton is ushered into the invisible world by angelic-like watchers. It’s not explained how Alton got mixed up among the humans, but it’s implied it may have been through his father, Roy.
The subject of faith is addressed in different ways. The superstitious sect taking advantage of Alton’s abilities doesn’t receive a positive portrayal, even though Roy came out of the cult. His faith in Alton, along with that of Lucas and Alton’s mother, Sarah, is simply that of belief in something greater. While verses like John 20:29, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” come to mind regarding MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, other than the mere existence of the vague spiritual beings, the Christian metaphors here are anything but concrete. However, allusions to Alton being a sort of Christ figure are seen in Alton reading Superman comic books, speaking in tongues (though this is somewhat explained) and in one scene literally causing a fiery satellite to come streaking down.
That said, the biblical/moral values in MIDNIGHT SPECIAL of sacrifice, family bonds, faith, and trying to understand one’s true identity are strong. There’s very little foul language in MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, but some action violence and one strong profanity warrant caution for older children.