Midnight Special

Critics Consensus

Midnight Special's intriguing mysteries may not resolve themselves to every viewer's liking, but the journey is ambitious, entertaining, and terrifically acted.



Total Count: 228


Audience Score

User Ratings: 22,200
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Movie Info

Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, and Kirsten Dunst star in writer/director Jeff Nichols' drama about a father and his eight-year-old son who go on the lam upon discovering that the boy possesses mysterious powers. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi


Sam Shepard
as Calvin Meyer
Paul Sparks
as Agent Miller
Sharon Landry
as Merrianne (Doak's Wife)
Dana Gourrier
as Sharon Davison (Counselor)
Sharon Garrison
as Jane Adams (Sarah's Mother)
Allison King
as Hannah (Ranch Member)
Sean Bridgers
as Fredrick (Ranch Member)
Lucy Faust
as Caroline (Ranch Member)
James Moses Black
as Military Officer
Yvonne Landry
as Motel Clerk
Maureen Brennan
as Woman at Truck Stop
Ann Mahoney
as FBI Agent #1
Garrett Hines
as FBI Agent #2
Kerry Cahill
as Linda (NSA Staffer)
Wayne Pére
as Prison FBI Agent
Dane Rhodes
as Oil Worker
Lee Zurik
as Local Newscaster #1
Nicondra Norwood
as Local Newscaster #2
Billy Slaughter
as NSA Staffer
Sam Malone
as Soldier at Roadblock
Sean Kaplan
as Texas State Trooper
James DuMont
as Base Commander
Nancy Grace
as Herself
Lynn Berry
as Herself
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News & Interviews for Midnight Special

Critic Reviews for Midnight Special

All Critics (228) | Top Critics (46) | Fresh (190) | Rotten (38)

  • Riffing on John Carpenter's Starman, writer-director Jeff Nichols has crafted a sci-fi chase film whose gravely naturalistic style adds to its sense of portent.

    Apr 26, 2016 | Full Review…
  • Nothing about this theme is particularly interesting or new, and it's still an open question how far Nichols can be ranked as an original creator as opposed to a prize pupil. Still, there's no doubting his craft and ambition.

    Apr 21, 2016 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…
  • Nichols has earned the right to take big leaps. Even if he doesn't stick the landing, it's a thrill watching him try. He, too, is something special.

    Apr 8, 2016 | Rating: B | Full Review…
  • Some films exist entirely on their own terms, while others benefit from a bit of backstory.

    Apr 7, 2016 | Rating: 4/5

    Kate Muir

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • Midnight Special starts strongly, and finishes nowhere very interesting.

    Apr 7, 2016 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • Nichols is the kind of director who favours the slow burn over the instant payoff, meaning that the high-tension, low-drama manner in which his modern-day parable unfolds makes the third-act fireworks even more dazzling.

    Apr 7, 2016 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Midnight Special

  • Feb 03, 2017
    Syfy is one of the toughest breeds to deliver a perfect film in the industry. So many things can go wrong whether it's with the story, the effects or the acting more-so than any other genre. Jeff Nichols, known primarily for his low-budget success stories, like Take Shelter and Mud, has nearly nailed down the ability to tell a complex and twisted story with such simple techniques. Midnight Special should be added to his growing list of accomplishments, but for most people not glued into the genre, it may come off as disjointed and unfulfilled. Special is a top-notch film for acting. Michael Shannon is always so powerful in his performances while Joel Edgerton adds some grit and levity to the situation; they seem to have kidnapped a young boy off what appears to be a cultist ranch in Texas outside San Angelo to get him to a point in America that's important only because they keep telling us it it. Kirsten Dunce and Adam Driver play their roles pretty one-note while even the briefest glimpses of Sam Shepard liven the already-strong cast. If there's one underlying take away from their performances, it's that no one seemed worried in the slightest about something going wrong. Unfortunately, this makes watching Midnight Special a bit...routine. With no traditional syfy effects until the very end, we get a story built on its central character, Alston the boy, instead of a director mucking up a fantasy world or parallel earth or what-have-you. With no real explanations, Nichols mostly leaves the answers up to our discretion as to what Alston is capable of or why he's even here in the first place. Midnight Special, while superbly acted and paced at just the right speed, has a bold message to deliver for humanity, however, most of the journey through the two hours of run time is watered down by the time we reach the end because of the the overall feeling of predestination. Overall, for the casual movie goer and syfy enthusiast alike, it may leave you feeling a little light in the pocket.
    Lane Z Super Reviewer
  • Sep 14, 2016
    It's like Donnie Darko and Looper had a baby. A less talented baby, but still, pretty impressive.
    Gimly M Super Reviewer
  • Aug 30, 2016
    After making his name with three independent films in Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter and Mud, director Jeff Nichols approaches his fourth feature with a bigger budget, making it his first studio production and allowing him to operate on a slightly more ambitious and grander scale. However, Nichols has a particular approach to storytelling and resists the urge to let the budget overshadow his intentions. Fans of his will be happy to hear that he continues his promise as a director with great depth and substance. Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) is young boy with a very special gift. So special that it attracts the attention of religious extremists and the Federal Government. To protect him, his father Roy (Michael Shannon) and his longtime friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton) go on the run with Alton to try and uncover the truth behind his special powers and how it could have a huge impact on the world itself. From his aforementioned independent films, Nichols utilised the intensive talents of Michael Shannon and it has become a solid collaboration that you can rely on. With the exception of Mud, Shannon again takes front-and centre in Midnight Special and it's yet another example of how this actor/director partnership works so well. Nichols likes to tread a particularly methodical path with his stories and Shannon always seems to know the terrain very well, complimenting Nichols' approach with his usual brooding intensity. What's different this time, however, is that Nichols aims higher and quite literally aims for the stars. Gone is the Shakespearean tragedy of Shotgun Stories and the parable of Mud and in its place we experience the otherworldly and supernatural elements that he attempted with Take Shelter. In doing so, Nichols puts his trust in the audience to accept the premise and roll with it. It's a gamble but it's a gamble that pays off due to Nichols' sincere approach to the story and through the sincerity of his committed cast. There's and unmistakable flavour of Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind and John Carpenter's Starman but yet still has the deliberate approach that Nichols has shown in his previous films. He resists the urge to shower the narrative in schmaltz, instead choosing to linger long on shots and capture the angst amongst his characters. Is it formulaic? Yes. Is it predictable? Yes it is, but despite the formula and the film heading closer and closer to a predictable conclusion, Nichols still manages to pull through. His revelations verge on going too far but by the end you realise that you've witnessed a film that crosses all sorts of genres; it's an introspective drama, a restrained chase movie and an imaginative Sci-Fi and it tackles all the tropes with a deftness and skill. We've seen it all before but Nichols utilises that sense of wonder and touches upon the biblical elements that made his previous films so engaging. His grandest achievement, though, is maintaining a freshness and preventing a tried-and-tested story from becoming stale. Much of Nichols' vision wouldn't be realised without his strong cast. For imaginative and otherworldly material of this type, it requires a commitment from those onscreen and all the principal leads deliver; Shannon is always an actor that can express so much by doing so little and it's easy to see why Nichols stands by him but it was the emotive (if underwritten) Dunst and, particularly, the charismatic Edgerton that really stood out for me. They both offer an emotional balance to Shannon's stoicism and young newcomer Jacob Lieberher has an ease and likability that convinces. It's four for four from Nichols now and he's fast became a director that instills a feeling of anticipation on the news of a new project. His next film Loving (again with Edgerton and Shannon) can't arrive quick enough. Mark Walker
    Mark W Super Reviewer
  • Jul 25, 2016
    It's an interesting genre piece. Nichols has made an early Spielberg/comic book movie hybrid . . . only he's successfully gutted it of clunky exposition and heavy handed sentimentality. Proof that these kinds of movies can have the fat trimmed away and still successfully sell their premise and characters.
    Alec B Super Reviewer

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