Okay, here it is right up front: I’m going to tell you very little about Midnight Special, the new Jeff Nichols film, other than (1) you should see it and (2) you should know as little about it as possible before buying your tickets. Having said that…
If you’re of the appropriate age, take yourself back to the late 70s. We obviously didn’t have the internet, but we had TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, all of which were buzzing about a new movie called Alien. All we had was a poster, a brief trailer that showed no actual people (or aliens), and that was about it. Unless we were unfortunate enough to be in close proximity to some blabbermouth who’d seen it, we didn’t know anything about the film until we took our seats in the theater and waited.
That’s what I attempted to do with Midnight Special and for the most part I succeeded. I didn’t even look closely at the poster pictured above (and I suggest you don’t either). Midnight Special is now in wide release and more and more people are talking about it, so it may be difficult not to hear anything about it, but try to isolate yourself as much as possible; you’ll enjoy it more.
I will say that I was engaged and captivated by the film, that its performances are good, the look of the film is great, the pacing tight, and for nearly two hours I forgot everything else but the movie. I’ll also say that this film does something that few others do: a few times in the film, we realize that important information is about to be conveyed. These aren’t just “things we need to know” types of information, but rather information that can change the characters’ (and perhaps our own) ways of thinking. This happens at least two times, maybe three. We know it’s about to happen, we know we’re about to learn something we didn’t previously know, something that could change everything, and the time between the instant we recognize that fact and the moment that information is delivered, we’re holding our collective breaths. Thousands of possibilities are shooting around in our minds and we have no idea which one is going to emerge. Those moments are just part of what makes Midnight Special so… well, special.
As for my thoughts on the film, I think it’s very good, but not great. See what you think and maybe we can discuss it in the comments section. (Just indicate SPOILER warnings if necessary.) If you’ve seen Jeff Nichols’s other films – Mud, Take Shelter, and the woefully neglected and seldom-seen Shotgun Stories – you’ve got an idea of what to expect as far as the writing and characters go and maybe even what to expect visually. Let those be the only expectations you take into the theater with you. Now go and enjoy the film.