Midnight Special – 3.75 stars

No one does Americana better than Arkansan writer-director Jeff Nichols. Shotgun Stories and Mud are monuments to understatement and authenticity. He has a unique ability to convey the lazy currents rural life as well as its plain-spoken and direct dialogue. None of it comes off as a posture or a condescension.

These qualities are found in Midnight Special, a story of a boy kidnapped by his father (Michael Shannon) away from the clutches of a religious compound in Texas. Soon, however, the federal government gets involved, and that’s where Nichols loses his way. The story morphs into the supernatural, the genesis of which is never fully explained, and the visual payoff – a world within our own that arises in Louisiana – is jarringly cheesy (I was reminded a little of The Abyss, James Cameron’s gripping underwater yarn, which was undone by the silliest representation of aliens you ever saw).

Still, I recommend the picture for the quiet moments and the care Nichols takes with both characters and milieu.

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