Jeff Nichols has been steadily becoming the prominent American writer/director voice for the rural American male after the masterful psychological nightmare of Take Shelter and the open-hearted fable of Mud. His latest, Midnight Special is a bit wider in scope and ambition while keeping one foot in the pool of his previous efforts Americana environment. Nichols is playing with genre this time, a soft sci-fi effort that shows his ability to captivate an engaged audience with his confident control of craft. However unlike those previous efforts (along with the underseen Shotgun Stories), the screenplay rarely cracks the surface of the world he provides for us. The film’s eyes are bigger than its stomach.
Nichols staple Michael Shannon plays Roy, who is on the run with his childhood friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton) with Roy’s mysteriously gifted son Alton (St. Vincent‘s Jaden Lieberher). Alton’s powers remain vague for much of the film, but he is wanted by the government for perceived threat to national security. Those powers had led Alton to be praised as some kind of deity by the cult he was raised within, an organization reminiscent of recent polygamist raids whose leader had taken claim over the raising of Alton. After kidnapping Alton and meeting up with his birth mother (Kirsten Dunst), Roy must deliver his son to the fateful coordinates that Alton had prophesied.