Midnight Special

“Wow, that’s quite a map-light upgrade.”

Roy has snatched his young son Alton from The Ranch, a cult that believes the boy has knowledge of an imminent end-of-days kinda scenario. Mind you, Alton does shoot blue rays from his eyes, so they could be on to something. However, they’re doing their image no favours with their early 1970s wardrobe choices.

Alton is also able to intercept military satellite communications, so the government is as interested in talking to him as The Ranch is in getting him back. A chase ensues as Roy tries to get a weakening Alton to a specific location by the deadline.

As a rule, screenwriters start each scene as late as possible – for instance, not with someone knocking at a front door but with the door being answered. The audience can assume the knock. With Midnight Special, though, we’re expected to assume a whole missing first act – the part where you get to know and empathise with the hero (despite their flaws), and then see him/her decide on their goal. All we know about Roy is that he’s not particularly nice. We don’t know what demons he’s trying to exorcise, so we struggle to care what happens to him – or anyone else. The dull dialogue doesn’t help.

The result is a film that’s a bit like Close Encounters of the Third Kind but without the humour, tension or any kind of deeper message. 5/10


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