Cults, car chases, a kid with lazer beam eyes, a satellite from outer space! What more could you want in a movie? As director Jeff Nichols said over high tea at 21 this week, "I wanted to make a sci fi-chase movie." As he did in his film Take Shelter, Nichols cast Michael Shannon as his alter ego, a man exploring new roles in his life as he marries and becomes a father. In Midnight Special, the typical family is complicated by the paranormal, and the bizarre codes of "the Ranch," led by Sam Shepard who needs the boy and his powers. The only recourse is to flee.
The boy, Alton, is an exceptional actor, Jaedon Lieberher, and his mother, Sarah, is the lovely Kirsten Dunst. She has already left the Ranch. Once together, Alton and his parents make as tight a family as you will find in the movies, with a twist. Oh, and Michael Shannon's sidekick is the excellent Joel Edgerton. Even when it seems that the men, Roy and Lucas, have kidnapped a random boy, you root for them. The buddy movie is one strong, highly charged element, second to the extremely moving father son bond.
At 21, Derek Cianfrance led the panel featuring Jeff Nichols, Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst, and Jaedon Lieberher. Because Cianfrance, the director of The Place Beyond the Pines, was editing his new movie, The Light Between Oceans, he had lots of questions for Nichols regarding technique, noting similarities to the work of Spielberg and John Carpenter. Shannon dropped in, midst rehearsal for his new play, Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night. Jaeden, at 13, looks much younger, and is precocious, even in character. When asked about how Nichols directed his actors, Dunst, matter of fact, said they had no rehearsals: "We come with our shit and we do it."
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