A father and his son who may have otherworldly powers are on the run from the government in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “Midnight Special,” at once a supernatural thriller and an enigmatic and thought-provoking journey into the unknown…and the unknowable.
In “Midnight Special,” a father (Michael Shannon), goes on the run to protect his young son, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), and uncover the truth behind the boy’s special powers. What starts as a race from religious extremists and local law enforcement quickly escalates to a nationwide manhunt involving the highest levels of the Federal Government. Ultimately his father risks everything to protect Alton and help fulfill a destiny that could change the world forever, in this genre–defying film as supernatural as it is intimately human.
“I wanted to make a chase movie, a movie about guys moving on back roads through the American South in a fast car, driving at night with their lights off,” says writer/director Jeff Nichols, setting the stage for characters embarking on a collision course with something bigger than they imagine. “They’re on the run, they’re being hunted and, at the same time, they’re racing towards something important, though we don’t immediately know what it is.”
But what appears on its face as an urgent but straightforward pursuit soon reveals layers of depth and a mystifying, otherworldly tenor. As the relationships between the fugitives and their pursuers come into sharper focus, the audience is taken along on an adventure the nature and magnitude of which they can only guess. Says Nichols, “I often compare this film to the reverse of one of those Russian nesting dolls, which start out large and open up multiple times to produce smaller and smaller versions until you get down to the core. This starts with a kind of indie feel, where you’re on the road with these guys, and then it gets progressively bigger and bigger until it falls off the edges of the frame.”
Traveling with Alton are his father, Roy, played by Michael Shannon, and Roy’s childhood friend Lucas, played by Joel Edgerton. Along the way they enlist the support of Alton’s mother, Sarah, played by Kirsten Dunst. Committed to help Alton fulfill his destiny, they will leave behind the lives they knew and do things they never thought possible in a race towards a destination and an appointment that calls only to him. Barely a step behind are the police and the FBI, as well as the NSA, in the form of agent Sevier, played by Adam Driver, and the single-minded devotees of the Third Heaven Ranch, led by Sam Shepard as the charismatic and cagey Calvin.
Nichols, who cites the mood and style of such 1980s sci-fi classics as “Starman” among his artistic influences and inspirations, says, “There’s the suggestion that Alton is meant for something or somewhere else, that his powers are symptoms of what he’s meant to do. As he starts to understand what his abilities are and take control of them, he starts to get healthier and better, whereas when his father tries to control them, for Alton’s own sake, it actually makes him sicker. Roy and Lucas don’t understand his capabilities. And we as the audience aren’t supposed to understand them, either. In one way that’s a metaphor for the fact that our kids are going to be who they are and we just have to have faith in that and let them go.”
In a larger sense, “This is about belief in something you don’t understand,” Nichols continues, insofar as the story explores the nature of faith in its many forms, and the lengths to which people will go for what that means to them. “What would you do if you knew your child was bound for somewhere you couldn’t go?”
“Midnight Special” will be shown exclusively at Century City Cinemas, Commercenter Cinemas, Eastwood Cinemas, Festival Mall and Shang Cineplex starting April 20, 2016. The film is distributed in the Philipines by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.