First Watch: Midnight Special

The comparisons that have been made of Jeff Nichols’s new Midnight Special to Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind are many, and they’re also true. But as we quickly learn during an interrogation scene, “this is something different.” The movie begins as a high-octane thriller, fueling the getaway car of a kidnapping in progress. Naturally, these are no ordinary kidnappers (Michael Shannon and Joel Edgerton) – they’re tinged with morality. Their motives are not financial, but spiritual, calling to the higher power of their precious cargo, a young boy named Alton Meyer (Jaeden Liberher). Alton, who is more a passenger than a victim, has a growing mystique, for which members of different factions are willing to take lives and risk their own.

The comparisons that have been made of Jeff Nichols’s new Midnight Special to Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind are many, and they’re also true. But as we quickly learn during an interrogation scene, “this is something different.” The movie begins as a high-octane thriller, fueling the getaway car of a kidnapping in progress. Naturally, these are no ordinary kidnappers (Michael Shannon and Joel Edgerton) – they’re tinged with morality. Their motives are not financial, but spiritual, calling to the higher power of their precious cargo, a young boy named Alton Meyer (Jaeden Liberher). Alton, who is more a passenger than a victim, has a growing mystique, for which members of different factions are willing to take lives and risk their own.

The pace softens as the movie progresses, and so do its characters. Rather than abandoning his boy for a vision, like Roy Neary from Close Encounters, Shannon (also named Roy) uses Alton to complete his. But it’s Edgerton, in his best performance to date, who displays more paternal instincts. Edgerton cares for the ailing child in times of need, while Shannon drives him to realize his prophecy. The movie adopts pieces of different genres, but Alton’s role at the center of the story is a constant. He brings the other characters together – uniting families, zealots, and government agencies. NSA Agent Sevier (Adam Driver) arrives as that government representative in the race to recapture the young boy. Driver is tasked with solving the film’s most complex problems, but Alton’s reach is so great that even the smartest man in the room is tempted by his secrets.

One of Nichols’s strengths as a writer and director is that he allows the audience to complete the film. He is willing to omit an action sequence or a line of clichéd dialogue to produce a greater effect. Though some audiences may find that Nichols has gone too far, leaving out too much, mostly in his narrative. One may feel that he has kidnapped us and taken us for a ride, with no clear destination. During their ride, Alton is seen reading comics in the backseat with only a flashlight to guide the way. This is quickly denounced by his father, suggesting that Alton “needs to know what’s real.” Nichols is interested in what is real, but only as it applies to human emotion and connection. And sometimes we must look to beings from other worlds to learn about those connections – to embrace a sense of euphoria, rather than search for an explanation.

Top 10 Films of 2015

2015 will always be a special year for the Bit Players when it comes to film, not only because it was the year that the podcast actually began, but it was actually a great year for new movies. Childhood dreams were realized when we got more Star Wars, the character of Rocky Balboa was gloriously revitalized in Creed, Pixar delivered one of their finest and most impactful offerings to date, some of the obligatory novel adaptations were actually quite good, Mad Max redefined what it means to be an action movie, and a whole lot of characters horrifically died in gorgeous snowy settings. We predict that it was a year of films that, when we look back years later, will continue to offer some of our lifelong favorite watches, and our top 25 films of 2015 is the list that best embodies what was so great this year and will continue to be so for years to come.

Aired Monday, February 22, 2016

2015 will always be a special year for the Bit Players when it comes to film, not only because it was the year that the podcast actually began, but it was actually a great year for new movies. Childhood dreams were realized when we got more Star Wars, the character of Rocky Balboa was gloriously revitalized in Creed, Pixar delivered one of their finest and most impactful offerings to date, some of the obligatory novel adaptations were actually quite good, Mad Max redefined what it means to be an action movie, and a whole lot of characters horrifically died in gorgeous snowy settings. We predict that it was a year of films that, when we look back years later, will continue to offer some of our lifelong favorite watches, and our top 25 films of 2015 is the list that best embodies what was so great this year and will continue to be so for years to come.

Midnight Showing: Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)

The guys get swept up in the Star Wars mania once again with J.J. Abrams’s stunning resurrection of the series, The Force Awakens. The film captures exactly what Midnight Showing is all about: the experience of going to the cinema as a transportative and immersive experience, as Abrams throws us right back into the world that became so familiar and beloved over the course of our lives, bringing back old favorites and adding new characters that will live on forever thanks to how rich and well-developed they are. The Force is strong with this one.

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015)
Director
J.J. Abrams
Stars
Harrison Ford, Carrie Fischer, Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson

Selected By
The Bit Players

4.8

what movies are
About

Aired Friday, December 25, 2015

The guys get swept up in the Star Wars mania once again with J. J. Abrams's stunning resurrection of the series, The Force Awakens. The film captures exactly what Midnight Showing is all about: the experience of going to the cinema as a transportative and immersive experience, as Abrams throws us right back into the world that became so familiar and beloved over the course of our lives, bringing back old favorites and adding new characters that will live on forever thanks to how rich and well-developed they are. The Force is strong with this one.