We are introduced to Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) in a motel room wearing goggles; showing on the TV is breaking news of a missing child. Protecting Alton is his Father, Roy (Michael Shannon) with his friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton). They rush him out to a car and they drive, on the run and in the darkness of night they turn off the headlights of the car and Lucas, who is driving, wears night vision googles to see the road.
Throughout the movie we are shown many events broadening the story of Alton, who he is and why he is so special. Moving at night and sleeping in the day, they move in a fear that the sunlight could cause harm to Alton. Staying at a friend’s house, we see Alton sending a beacon of light into the eyes of the friend, shaking the ground. Alton screams in pain and Roy, woken by the shaking, moves to protect him. This is the moment we see that there is something special about Alton.
At no point do we find out who (or what) Alton is and why he is able to share visions and send information using beams of lights from his eyes. He is learning how powerful he is as well as we see him able to move satellites and detect dangerous situations ahead of them.
We see a cult group together in a church hall chanting numbers, co-ordinates that turn out to be secret government messages that were sent by satellites. However we are never shown how this group was formed and why they were there. In fact throughout the whole movie we are kept in the dark a lot, which leave us with a lot of unanswered questions. In the Berlinale Press Conference for this movie, the writer and director, Jeff Nichols, said that he deliberately left out a lot in the movie, I assume to keep the attention of the audience and to keep us on edge. He said that he hopes it worked, in my opinion this didn’t work well. There were too many plot holes and too many unknown elements that really distracted the story and made me thing “Why?” too many times.
An NSA officer named Sevier (Adam Driver) is the specialist in the hunt for Alton. We see him interviewing members of the cult group and working with FBI agents to figure out where Roy is taking Alton. Adam Driver did a fantastic job of showing the characters interest in the boy without seeming creepy with, what seemed like, genuine and heart-felt reactions to the situations the character faced. Likewise with all other roles, particularly Jaeden Lieberher, Kirsten Dunst, Michael Shannon and Joel Edgerton, they all played their characters perfectly, really capturing and understanding the characters well.
Jeff Nichols clearly had a lot of sci-fi references to The Man Who Fell to Earth, E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, all brilliant movies in their own right. Is Midnight Special going to follow suit? Despite the incredible acting performances throughout, the story left too much untold.