Cine Reviews: ‘Midnight Special’ (2016) (Version 2)

* Note: This is the 2nd version for Live/Love/Cinema’s review of Midnight Special, and is written by a different person. You can read the 1st version here: https://livelovecinema.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/cine-reviews-midnight-special-2016/

Now, moving on…

Midnight Special is director Jeff Nichols’ 4th film, and tells about a father and his son going on the run as they get pursued by the government and a cult drawn to the child’s special powers.

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Midnight Special has the heart of a Spielberg movie, but the mind of an indie flick. It’s one of the greatest things that makes it what it is and altogether it crafted a sci-fi movie that we haven’t seen for a very long time. All of those really makes it what it is; special and new. Jeff Nichols’ mixing of homages and refreshing concepts altogether expresses its immense cinematic allure, letting it become a soul-enriching sci-fi. Perhaps even a sci-fi that touches our hearts just as it shrouds us in thrills and intrigue. Jeff’s vision is quite simple, but that doesn’t mean less. His presence in the film as its director shows that it can become what it wanted to be without diverging away from what it needed to become. In a literal sense, it became a loving tribute to Spielberg’s sci-fi classics but at the end of the day, it still was a Jeff Nichols film with his trademarks imprinted on it. This is a mark of his genius, and it could get sensed all throughout the film as it attained originality more than nostalgia through its intense tone and overall otherworldly cinematic textures. It dared to push itself beyond the limits of the ordinary and the result became something a little too distinctive from the usual.

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This is definitely a great thing for the film to have, but that also meant a somewhat hard to comprehend message/themes/story for us to take in. To speak fairly, Jeff Nichols’ narrative tends to digs deeper into its themes than the usual, yet it never comes out as a hindrance in bringing out what the film is all about. Nichols perfectly employs atmosphere and ambiance into the entire film that you just get sucked into it right away, never minding what the film throws at you even if you sometimes get confused by it. At times its story could speak in tongues, but deciphering its rather cryptic message becomes a wonderful task as it plays with our minds. It’s a sign of his and the film’s brilliance, and it becomes so as it gets marvelously displayed onscreen, letting you feel its lively flair in every scene there is. Whether it would be the film’s dreadfully thrilling nature that paired up well with its heartily expression of its soulful themes, Jeff Nichols seemed to perfectly put everything in balance by putting everything in the right places tightly. Then again, compared to his other works, Midnight Special could come off as quite extraordinary, but partly only for being so. Nichols’ skilled direction is evident, but there still seems to be something missing at times. But then again, this couldn’t be considered much of a flaw since Nichols played the film’s concepts with his talented hand and his brilliant mind, making Midnight Special yet another film that solidifies the status of his filmography as consistently pleasing.

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The dialogue may be subtle and little, but its soft-spoken nature speaks rather loudly once you realize what subtlety meant to the film. In it, a connection gets built between a father (Michael Shannon) and his son (Jaeden Lieberher) and we get caught up in their situation bound in danger and emotions. This is where Midnight Special’s true essence as a film comes out as it completes itself as a sci-fi indie that focuses more on characters than visuals. You get the latter too but really, it’s the former that allows fans of the genre to totally adore the unique vision and concept Jeff Nichols presents onscreen. The cast all play out their roles with subtlety, and this becomes a showcase of their simplistic acting that is covered with genuine excellence. Like always, Michael Shannon’s expression of feelings speaks to our hearts with every emotion that gets built within him. Even if he uttered his lines softly, he never ceased to show how terrific his acting skills are with his emotionally affecting facial expressions that intensified the situations onscreen. The entirety of the cast also managed to stand out, with each of them effectively involving us in all of it. A perfect example being Joel Edgerton whose simple yet great performance lets us believe in his talents as an actor no matter what role he takes on.

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What director Jeff Nichols had in mind with Midnight Special was not only a tribute to Spielberg, but also an interestingly new sci-fi thriller that that is beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. The unnatural yet lurid viewing experience  it gives takes you to its heart, and it is where its magic is revealed for the senses to get hypnotized with. Its opening scene alone already catches your attention, and what follows next leaves its mark on your heart and spirit.This is sci-fi cinema for the soul, and what Jeff Nichols presents to the table makes us believe that filmic ideas from the past and the present make for an arresting viewing experience. Visually speaking, the film looks gracefully done, with every detail big or small becoming noticeable simply considering how much thought is put into it. With all that being done triumphantly, Jeff Nichols proved once again just how much of a talented filmmaker he is with Midnight Special, his own visceral and fervent take on the sci-fi genre. 


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Midnight Special is perhaps THAT sci-fi film that our senses have been longing for years. It serves as both a Spielbergian tribute and an original, mesmerizing supernatural thriller. Despite Jeff Nichols’ unusually cavernous writing, it still succeeds in quenching our thirst for something new and admirable. This is definitely something that both Spielberg and his fans would adore.

Rating:

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MIDNIGHT SPECIAL is now playing exclusively at Cinema 2000 group of theaters, namely Century City, Commercenter, Eastwood, Festival Mall and Shang Cineplex. The film is distributed in the Philipines by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

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