Midnight Special is Jeff Nichols’ fourth film, and is an obvious love letter to the imagination of Steven Spielberg. In a quiet but ominous opening, we witness two men, Lucas (Joel Edgerton) and Roy Tomlin (Michael Shannon), escorting a young boy, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), out of their hotel room under the cover of darkness. We later learn that Alton, who is burdened with mystical powers, is Roy’s son, and the pair are fleeing from the cult that they used to belong to. Said cult bases its beliefs on the things that Alton says when he’s “speaking in tongues.” Meanwhile, the government want the trio because Alton’s “teachings” also happen to disclose official secrets.
As Nichols expertly guides the film towards its conclusion, he brings more elements of the story to the table, never promising to truly explain everything that you’re about to see. It’s a bold move, and Midnight Special’s ending is likely to leave some in the audience feeling cheated by its lack of finality. However, to pull at the threads of the end means that you miss the story as a whole.
This is an emotive piece of sci-fi that at times feels like an allegory for the difficult decisions we make as a family, and the acceptance that we must have when we do. Alton’s otherworldly condition is shown to have the potential to kill him, but once his father, and later mother (Kirsten Dunst), decide what’s best for him, they’re basically undermined by religion and the government who seemingly know better. Perhaps this is over-analysing a film about a boy that can shoot lights from his eyes, but the film is so rich in depth that Nichols practically invites you to walk away with your own interpretations. Because Midnight Special will be damned if it’s going to explain everything to you.