(US - 2016)
Written and directed by Jeff Nichols. Cast: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Sam Shepard, Jaeden Lieberher, Bill Camp, Scott Haze, Paul Sparks, David Jensen, Dana Gourrier, Sean Bridgers. (PG-13, 112 mins)
Since his brilliant 2008 debut SHOTGUN STORIES, Arkansas-based writer/director Jeff Nichols has explored family bonds and haunted legacies in distinct and vivid rural settings. His is a unique voice that has emerged over his follow-up efforts TAKE SHELTER (2011) and MUD (2013), a key film in the McConaissance of a few years back, in which Matthew McConaughey turned in an even better performance than he did in DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, even though it was the latter that got him an Oscar. MUD was enough of a sleeper hit to get Nichols his first major-studio production, the sci-fi drama MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, though it's hardly a commercial, multiplex endeavor. Warner Bros. opened it small after sitting on it for nearly two years and changing the release date a few times, and it's the kind of film that gains traction by word of mouth. Though he's working with a bigger budget and some reasonably conservative use of special effects, Nichols keeps MIDNIGHT SPECIAL very much in line with his own cinematic niche. In a way, it's his most personal film yet, inspired by a period where his then eight-month-old son was suffering seizures and was paralyzed for a month.