It could be said that Midnight Special offers a unique spin on the superhero story. The Jeff Nichols film may be a small scale production but its concept and themes are wide reaching. The sci-fi drama centers on Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), a boy with otherworldly abilities that (while mesmerizing) can be dangerous. While being hunted by the government and a religious cult – he’s protected by his parents (Michael Shannon and Kirsten Dunst) and a family friend (Joel Edgerton). The group is forced to go on the run and risk their own lives to keep Alton safe.
Shot in roughly two months, the small budget gem is a mesh of several different types of films. At times it’s a suspenseful chase thriller with moments of emotional realism woven in. In other moments, its social undertones come to the surface – making for a striking parable about acceptance of the unique. The mysterious nature of the plot and characters proves rewarding. Much of the story is ambiguous, allowing the audience to infer what they wish to.
Lieberher, who won praise for his breakout role in St. Vincent, is a large part of what makes the film so touching. You can’t help but feel for Alton even though he may pose a threat to those around him. In my video interview with the talented young actor, he spoke about playing a character who’s shrouded in mystery and the physicality of the role. He also noted how helpful it was to work with realistic special effects as opposed to CGI.
- Conveying his character’s arc.
- The difficulty of portraying his character’s deteriorating state.
- The challenge of working with special effects.