Film Reviews

MIDNIGHT SPECIAL

By • Apr 11th, 2016 •

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There are now 7.4 billion people on earth. Not one of them has evolved special powers.

Genetic science keeps assuring us that as a species we are still evolving. Charles Darwin’s seminal work on evolution concluded – simply summarized as “survival of the fittest” – was the basis for organic evolution (the change of living things with time). Perhaps this was true for hundreds of thousands of years, but now the weak, the sick, and even the physically undesirable, live long lives and procreate.

So then we have “natural selection”, whereby one example (out of a mere five) of recent natural selection in humans involves the ability to tolerate the sugar, lactose, in milk.

While our ancestors have been around for about six million years, the modern form of humans only evolved around 200,000 years ago. The Homo group — which includes our own species, Homo sapiens — began arising more than two million years ago. It’s distinguished from the other humanoid species by bigger brains, more tool-making and the ability to reach far beyond Africa.

Neither “survival of the fittest” or “natural selection” in 200,000 long years and 7.4 billion test subjects, has produced a human being with special powers.

What would happen if one of us started flinging objects across a room or have the power to stare into someone’s eyes and deliver unimaginable ecstasy? How about the ability to destroy a city with a glance?

Neither “survival of the fittest” or “natural selection” has produced a human being with special powers. Its rather a disappointing outcome.

With scientists making sperm and eggs from human saliva and thus creating life, slowly we will hear about human-animal hybrids (not animal-human hybrids but humans with animal senses and abilities). Its currently illegal, but who is paying attention?

Roy Tomlin (Michael Shannon) and a friend from childhood he contacted just 3 days ago, Lucas (Joel Edgerton), are traveling at a high rate of speed with an 8-year-old boy, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher). Alton has been living at a secluded Texas religious community, The Ranch. Roy, his biological father, and his mother Sarah (Kirsten Dunst) gave The Ranch leader, Calvin Meyer (Sam Shepard), guardianship over Alton two years earlier.

Lucas is a state trooper who was enlisted into the rescue and kidnapping of Alton from The Ranch when the boy, gazing into his eyes, showed him glorious things. Apparently, Alton’s gaze can bring a person to the awakening of the Thousand Petal Lotus.

Alton has other major significant powers over gravity, electricity and death. For some reason only known to Alton, he must go somewhere in four days.

The trio gets into trouble on the road and we learn how committed Lucas is. It must have been some astonishing transference of power, since Lucas is dedicated to the cause and shows us how committed he is. The first stop for the trio is to a former Ranch resident. There is a small, underground railroad set up to help Alton in his mission. Then they go to Sarah’s house. She seemed kind of happy to see her son again. Something went down between her and Roy. Her reason for abandoning Alton to Calvin is never explained.

Because, there is more pressing matters at hand. The Ranch wants Alton back and Calvin has sent two of his trusted lieutenants, Levi (Scott Haze) and Doak (Bill Camp), to do the necessary dirty work. Then the media gets hold of the “abduction” and Roy and Lucas are being hunted by every Amber Alert. The FBI is called in. Every member of The Ranch is taken to the FBI’s office for “debriefing”. NSA officer Paul Sevier (Adam Driver) takes control of the mission to find Alton. The Ranch believes Alton is a savior. The FBI sees evidence that Alton could be a weapon of mass destruction.

Where is Alton going and what is the reason? The NSA got involved when encrypted government secrets were found in Calvin’s sermons. Somehow, Sevier deciphers the coordinates and locates Alton’s destination.

Shannon is, as usual, absolutely convincing and magnetic. HE’s all in and so is Edgerton. In directing Lieberher, Jeff Nichols bypasses the cute kid stuff, as well as the overly sentimental acting expected from child actors. Real kids are annoying and always want things. Children never see “the big picture”. The world revolves around them until it crushes them with reality. With the exception of Dunst, and that could possibly be the fault of the screenplay, everyone is as naturalistic and rooted to their middle America landscape. And then there is Driver, who has the kind of face that can be used in so many different ways. In MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, he’s an authoritative government man, on GIRLS he was the boyfriend you wished on your worst enemy and in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, he was a sexy villain.

The end scenes by Alex McDowell, a special effects master, are outstanding.

Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society:www.lvfcs.org

Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email at victoria.alexander.lv@gmail.com

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