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Midnight Special (7/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 112 minutes.

OK for children.

Even for science fiction, this is a strange one. But it starts with a bang and continues building tension until the end. Writer/director Jeff Nichols has a terrific cast, including the rapidly rising star Joel Edgerton and the child Jaeden Lieberher (St. Vincent), upon which the entire movie hinges.

Starting with the opening titles, we are thrust into a tense situation as 8-year-old Alton Meyer (Lieberher) is apparently kidnapped from a cult called the Third Heaven Ranch (headed by Calvin Meyer played by Sam Shephard) by Roy Tomlin (Michael Shannon), who turns out to be Altonís father. Roy is aided by Lucas (Edgerton).

Alton has weird powers. He goes into trances, his eyes emit light rays that are blinding, and he can mentally access government secrets. Roy and his wife, Sarah (Kirsten Dunst) realize that their son is special but they donít have a clue why (and neither does the audience).

Also pursuing Alton is the FBI, aided by a National Security Agency investigator, Sevier (Adam Driver), who seems to understand a lot better than anyone else in the movie.

The sci-fi part of the film is puzzling and the chase part is exciting and tense, and thatís most of the movie. Of course everyone wonders whatís going on and why the cult and the FBI are after Alton.

The ending would appeal to Alain Resnais, who directed the puzzling Last Year at Marienbad (1961). But what do you do with a sci-fi movie? Oh well, itís finely directed and acted, and itís entertaining so thatís all that matters.