Adventure Blu-ray Review

'Midnight Special' Blu-ray Review: A tale of science, faith and parenthood

June 23, 2016Ben MK

Take one part Tomorrowland and equal parts Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T., and what do you get? The answer may very well be Midnight Special, the fourth feature from writer/director Jeff Nichols (Mud, Take Shelter and Shotgun Stories), and a movie that highlights the special bond between parent and child.

In it, Michael Shannon plays Roy Tomlin, a man on the run with his 8-year-old son Alton (Jaeden Lieberher). But Alton is no ordinary boy; he possesses powers beyond our realm of understanding, manifested by his ability to decode secret government transmissions and to emit a blinding, blue light from his eyes, enabling others to share his wondrous visions of another world. As a result, Roy and Alton find themselves being pursued not only by the FBI, but by members of a Texas-based religious cult called the Ranch, who believe that Alton is their savior.

Many have called Midnight Special a spiritual successor to the 1980s films of Steven Spielberg. However, Nichols himself has gone on record as saying that the similarities aren't by design. Intentional or not, the movie's themes and narrative structure do evoke certain Spielbergian undertones — with a little John Carpenter thrown in for good measure — though the overall result lacks that genuine sense of wonderment present in Spielberg's work.

Otherwise, Midnight Special is impeccably acted, thanks to a cast that includes Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton, Sam Shepard and Adam Driver. Ultimately, however, it's the script that makes or breaks a movie, and that's where the film struggles, meandering along for most of its run time, and then ending just when things start to get interesting. As an homage to Spielberg, it's serviceable; but as a movie unto itself, Midnight Special is a bit of a snooze.

Midnight Special's 1080p transfer isn't flashy, but it gets the job done. Picture quality is nicely detailed, providing viewers with a clear look at surface textures and object details, and the color palette is suitably saturated, even though much of the first half of the film is shrouded in half-darkness. Likewise, the disc's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is another low-key affair, driven primarily by the dialogue, as well as composer David Wingo's pulsating score, and punctuated by the odd explosion, gunshot, and the rumbling that accompanies Alton's powers.

Warner's single-disc Blu-ray release includes an UltraViolet digital copy and the following Blu-ray extras:

  • Origins (12:36) - A series of profiles of the film's various characters ("Roy," "Lucas," "Sarah," "Alton" and "Sevier") and the actors who play them.
  • The Unseen World (5:12) - Writer/Director Jeff Nichols talks about the inspiration and ideas behind his film, its themes and the production design.

Midnight Special is available from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment as of June 21st, 2016. The Blu-ray features English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1, and English Dolby Digital 5.1 Descriptive Audio tracks. The film is presented with English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles. The total runtime is 1 Hr. 52 Mins.

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