*** out of four
The Louisiana shot Midnight Special is a chase picture with a difference. It's exciting and tense, but also smart and even has a touch of the metaphysical.
Roy (Michael Shannon) and his eight-year-old son, Alton, (Jaeden Lieberher) are on the run from both the government and a religious cult. Everybody wants this kid because he has special powers. Helping the duo escape capture is Roy's childhood friend and former state trooper, Lucas (Joel Edgerton), and they also pick up the kid's mom, Sarah (Kirsten Dunst), along the way.
Director Jeff Nichols made Take Shelter, also with Shannon, and layers the atmosphere here with that same feeling of Biblical Prophecy dread, but not as fatalistic. Shannon often plays creeps and weirdo, so playing a desperate but caring father is atypical for him, but he acquires the role well. It also helps that young Lieberher's performance is quite good.
Midnight Special doesn't feel the need to hold your hand and explain everything, and it is better for it. Sure, it's cryptic at time, but that also makes it all the more intriguing. You get just enough information to keep you centered on the story.