In an era where Hollywood looks more and more to large coastal cities and sexy international locations as the favored settings for even smaller stories, filmmaker Jeff Nichols has largely opted to defy such trends by setting his films in the under-utilized regions of rural America. Through a growing body of work including Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter, and Mud, Nichols has forged a unique aesthetic that casts a sympathetic eye to the details of life among the American blue-collar working class.
Now, the director looks to delve deeper into genre with the upcoming Midnight Special. The film features frequent collaborator Michael Shannon as an ordinary father trying to protect his son, who has possesses mysterious and extraordinary powers.
While the key plot details of Midnight Special are largely held back from the trailers, this second peek offers more of the film's basic plot and sensibility. Mostly, the trailer offers a look at Shannon's simple but decent father making his way through the back roads of America, looking to keep the child he doesn't fully understand but loves unconditionally out of the hands of both unscrupulous-looking government agents and an extremist religious cult. Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, and Sam Shepard also star, with St. Vincent's Jaeden Lieberher as the boy.
The words "superhero deconstruction" have followed the film since its initial announcement, screenings have yielded comparisons to E.T., Close Encounters of The Third Kind, and John Carpenter's Starman, as well as the early films of M. Night Shyamalan. While openly referring to the feature as a "sci-fi chase film," Nichols has also called it "more grounded" than Mud, which featured Matthew McConaughey as a mysterious fugitive hiding out with the help of two children. While the film looks to be very much in the vein of Nichols' earlier films, his ability to successfully integrate the more extreme genre elements involving a super-powered child will be key to the film's potential crossover success. Early reviews are encouraging, with critics who caught the film at the recent Berlinale Festival declining to elaborate on major plot spoilers, but describing a significant tonal shift for the third act and an "ambitious," effects-heavy finale.
If successful with mainstream audiences, the film could prove to be a major breakout for Nichols, who's been a critical darling ever since Take Shelter (which also included quasi-supernatural plot elements, though more symbolically) made an impact at Sundance in 2011. What's already clear is that the industry already believes in Nichols as a potential "next big thing" (he was believed to be in the running to be the Aquaman director at one point), as the director has already lined up another big project for 2016 that's been shooting since late last year. That film, Loving, a historical drama about Mildred and Richard Loving, the couple whose incarceration for their (then-illegal) interracial marriage in 1967 led to the landmark Supreme Court case that struck down such laws in the United States.
Anticipation for Midnight Special has certainly grown with reports of its reception amongst critics and certainly from trailers such as this. Fans eager to see what Nichols has created won't have to wait long, as the film is set to open on March 18, 2016.
Screen Rant will have more information on Midnight Special leading up to its release.
Source: Warner Bros.
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