Midnight Special ** out of ****
Directed by Jeff Nichols
Starring: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Adam Driver, Jaeden Lieberher, Kirsten Dunst, and Sam Shepherd
Release Date- March 18, 2016
Midway through Midnight Special there’s a line that’s uttered from a father to his son that sticks with us, despite how generic it initially seems, and encapsulates its director’s entire film oeuvre. “I like worrying about you,” Roy (Michael Shannon) says to his son, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), after a near death experience. Such a simple line depicts the compulsion men invariably encounter in each of the four films made by Arkansas director Jeff Nichols. His men are troubled, burdened, and eventually consumed by an unhealthy urge to either protect their family, friends, or legacy.
Unlike the best films of Nichols (this ranks last on his list), Midnight Special does not fully go with the reverberations that such a faithful adherence to a compulsion would lead to. Rather, we are dragged along an erratic journey that fuses a variety of genres (inevitable comparisons to E.T. Will ensue), eventually losing sight of Mr. Nichols’ sweet spot: examining man’s unerring religious devotion to protection and human emotion.
Safe House Directed by Daniel Espinosa
Starring Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepherd and Robert Patrick
Release Date: February 10, 2012
Corruption at the top of any organization is a touchy subject for a director to be curious about. When done right, a film depicting corruption, like Polanski’s Chinatown or The Ghost Writer, is an impressive and immersive experience. Navigating through the hypocrisy and crookedness is an act of a polished director at the top of his craft who wants to enlighten audiences about reality, not entertain them. Swedish director Daniel Espinosa is introducing himself to American audiences with a hesitating and not so sharp portrait of corruption. He wants to exploit the supposed corruption occurring in intelligence units across the world, such as CIA agents and M16 agents. Instead of having a firm and confident command on a narrative structure that would get his point across, all of his energy is directed toward articulating sensational action scenes that reek of implausibility. Espinosa has an interesting foundation to build upon thanks to David Guggenheim‘s script. Coherency and logic, though, are neglected, and an overwhelming amount of dynamism is relied on to entertain audiences, dismissing words and dialogue for guns and fists of fury.