• by Wes Singleton

Review: Midnight Special, B

Rated PG-13, 111 minutes

The absorbing, heartfelt new science-fiction thriller "Midnight Special" is an intriguing, well-acted exploration of what it means to truly be different. Directed and written by Jeff Nichols, who directed "Take Shelter" and "Mud," this has enough provocative themes and tense moments to keep you guessing well after you leave the theater. The government, including FBI special agent Paul Sevier (Adam Driver) and a religious cult (led by Sam Shepard) pursue Roy (Michael Shannon) and his son Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), a young boy who possesses special powers after they escape the cult who is aware of his powers. Nicholas has crafted a unique film filled with mysteries that its audience may not fully grasp, though they're certain to see the affecting bond between father and son, particularly from the smart, touching performances from Shannon as the disheveled dad and Lieberher (from the Bill Murray comedy "St. Vincent") as the boy who has special abilities, including bringing down a satellite and making the Earth melt and shake. Driver is also solid as the FBI agent who may be on their side, as well as Kirsten Dunst as the estranged but loving mother, and Joel Edgerton as the loyal friend who takes the journey with father and son. Nicholas peppers the proceedings with enough action sequences and subdued visuals to keep the audience engaged through what is essentially a standard, overused cat-and-mouse chase, and the occasionally murky script never fully explains where the boy came from or how he got where he is, only that he's from another, mysterious world. The otherwise smartly executed "Midnight Special" is best when it focuses on the family bond that transcends the time and space continuum, with memorable turns from Shannon and Lieberher. Mysteriously touching and strangely compelling, it's worth a look for something different, yet in a good way.

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