I always look forward to a screen unseen, especially when it’s a film I wouldn’t have gone to see of my own accord. This time the film was Midnight Special, directed by Jeff Nichols of Mud fame. This is a film I’d have probably caught when it was on Sky or Netflix rather than gone to the cinema to see (although I’m a Limitless member now so I’m going to go and see everything). So again Screen Unseen has done it’s job in showing me a film that has been viewed favourably by critics, before release and something I might not have been to see. I find myself once again playing Devil’s Advocate however. I want to be a critic, however I find that I disagree with critics a lot. I’m a massive Kevin Smith fan for example. Most recently I disagreed with the way the industry has taken down Batman V Superman. Now I disagree with the praise they’re throwing upon this film. The film is about a young boy who has been kidnapped from a cult that has adopted him by his birth father. The father discovers that the boys has powers and he must get him to a specific destination at a certain time. In the mix of this the Cult, NSA and FBI are all after getting their hands on this boy.
Michael Shannon has an aura of mystery and power about him. I started loving him as an actor after watching Boardwalk Empire. However I think he needs a new agent as he keeps picking bad films in my opinion. I can see why this role appeals to him however. He plays the boys dad and the role requires someone who would believable taking charge and battling head first in to something he doesn’t and can never truly understand. Michael Shannon’s quiet confidence and presence fit this role perfectly. He is as creepy as you can get without even trying which goes well with the characters implied damaged history and current very confusing situation. Adam Driver does really well with a limited role as an NSA investigator (he also says Red Sabre at one point which made me chuckle). The young Jaeden Lieberher who I really liked in St Vincent does well with what he was given which is a ton of very cheesy lines. The understated effects in this film are done really well. It is done on a much smaller budget than most Sci-Fi films, but that has probably helped the director not take things too far. Instead we get some very simple effects seriously juxtaposed with normal life making them have a much stronger impact than the CGI we will get shoved down our throat in Independence Day soon.
Now I have managed to squeeze out some positives to make this a fair and balanced review, on to how I actually feel. This film is easily one of the most boring things I’ve seen in a long time. I felt like the first half of the film I was watching a really bad M Night film. It spent ages trying to build up the cult closing in on the boy, the FBI doing the same and the NSA getting close to understanding what is going on with this child. This was primarily people speaking in low tones with zero character. Due to this I was waiting for it to kick off. I didn’t feel any tension building, but that was clearly what they attempted to do. So I was waiting for it all to get started. Then we had a brief two minute gun fight, in which no one dies or gets hurt beyond Kirsten Dunst bumping her head. For some reason this is a world in which everyone wears the highest grade bulletproof vest apparently. Then we once again have a long time of nothing. There isn’t anything that can keep you invested in the story and in turn you don’t care about the kids well being. This is a child on screen and I found myself not caring if he lived or died, which is kind of the whole premise of the film.
There is only one proper female character, the boys mother played by Dunst. Disclaimer here, I have always hated her, I think she is an awful actress. I haven’t seen the second season of Fargo yet however and people seem to have been impressed with her so I was willing to give her another chance. To be fair to her she was given nothing to work with. We meet her a third of the way in to the film and all she does is stare longingly at nothing and say nothing of any substance. She is truly placed in a massively backwards role, in that she must do what the man says. She is a passenger throughout as a character. However at the end, I wont give away too much, she was given a chance to redeem the character. She failed miserably, once again showing she has the emotional range of a cucumber. This is all awful and makes the actual enjoyment of the film impossible for me. Looking at it away from the actual cinema going experience however and the film is also largely unoriginal. Young creepy child, check. Been done millions of times. Must get said creepy child we don’t understand to a specific destination at a certain time. Similar premise to E.T. pretty much.
This film starts off like it is going to explore some interesting topics. It introduces us to this cult, that believes this child is their saviour. It actually came close to exploring god and man’s relationship to it. I thought right so we’re seeing this child who people believe is god and the FBI is hunting them down. This is going to be interesting. Instead we just ended up with a boring, unoriginal and badly written Sci-Fi film. I have a high bar for Sci-Fi and can be very critical of it however, with a lot of my friends not understanding how passionately I despise Prometheus. With this film you may not be as emotionally invested in to hating this film as I am, but I truly believe you will leave the cinema, eject the DVD or close your laptop and within the week forget everything about this uninspired, pretentious mess of a film.