Georgie de Mattos/ Mustang News

Greg Llamas is a journalism junior and Mustang News film columnist.

Usually, I like it when someone suggests a movie to me. So when a friend of mine suggested that I go see Midnight Special, I was more than willing to see it. After all, we generally have the same taste when it comes to movies, and I’d seen that it had some pretty good reviews. But after watching it, I don’t think I’ll be taking suggestions from my friend ever again.

Midnight Special, written and directed by Jeff Nichols, isn’t a total abomination of a film; in fact, it’s got a really good premise. But after I left the theater, I couldn’t help but feel that it had a lot of wasted potential.

Nichols starts off Midnight Special in an interesting way. We’re thrust into the story immediately. Michael Shannon stars as Roy, a former member of a religious cult known as The Ranch. He is on the run from The Ranch with his 8-year-old son Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), who’s revealed to have supernatural powers, and childhood friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton).

Along with Alton’s mother Sarah (Kirsten Dunst), they try to hide him from the religious cult. Believing that Alton is a sort of savior, The Ranch sends two of its members to take him back from his parents.

After learning that Alton can decode government secrets with his powers, government agencies, led by Paul Sevier (Adam Driver), also become involved in searching for him.

It’s an intriguing story that I had at least some interest in seeing. While I didn’t care for Midnight Special as a whole, there were some good elements to the movie.

The acting was decent, but Lieberher and Driver were both exceptional in their roles. Alton wasn’t my favorite character, but Lieberher managed to breathe a little bit of life into the film, making Alton one of the more interesting characters. Lieberher conveyed Alton’s pain well, whether it was physical or emotional, and at the same time was able to show how much Alton cares for his family.

The best character in the film was NSA agent Paul Sevier. Driver, he of Kylo Ren fame, was great in his role as Sevier, pulling off a performance that made him the most likable character in the film. Sevier was shown to be a character that is quirky and awkward, yet kind, and more understanding of Alton’s dilemma than the rest of the government agents.

Unfortunately, Sevier was one of the only characters that I truly liked. A running theme with Midnight Special seemed to be wasted potential, and no character suffers more with this theme than Roy. I really wanted to like him, and the setup was there to make him likable and interesting. He’s a guy on the run, taking his kid away from a cult that he used to be a part of. It sounds really compelling, right?

But he somehow manages to be one of the less compelling characters. The film completely glosses over his past relationship with The Ranch. This would’ve been a great opportunity for him to confront his past and to add some tension to the film, but we don’t really get a feel for what his life was like while a part of the cult.

Sarah, who is also a former member of the cult, suffers this same problem. We don’t really get a sense of their previous lives as a part of The Ranch, making the two of them shallower characters.

Speaking of The Ranch, it’s probably the most interesting part of the film, but also happens to be the most neglected. It mainly appears only near the beginning when the FBI investigates Alton’s connection with it. After that scene, the only time The Ranch plays a decent-sized part is when the two members are searching for Alton. While this scenario could be tense or exciting, we only see them pop up briefly from place to place, and they feel so detached from the rest of the film that what we get of them isn’t that interesting. In fact, as the climax of Midnight Special comes into view, The Ranch drops out of the picture entirely and with very little closure.

In a film riddled with disappointment, perhaps the most disappointing part comes from the climax. In what is supposed to be a thrilling emotional ending, I felt only one thing: nothing. I legitimately didn’t care what happened during the ending, and this is one of the few films I’ve seen recently where I had almost zero investment in the main characters.

It wasn’t just the characters that made me not care for the ending; it was also the plot setup. To be fair, I know that writing and directing the same film isn’t easy at all, but the ending that Nichols created was just a ridiculous and overall unsatisfying conclusion to a disappointing film.

I really wanted to like Midnight Special and thought it could’ve been really good. It has a great premise, and it stars Adam Driver. He’s the man and I love seeing him act, but I don’t want him to be one of the only bright spots to a film that could’ve been executed much better. It’s impressive that something that’s only a bit over 100 minutes could feel like it was longer than something like The Lord of the Rings. I’m not sure if I spent more time watching the actual film or my watch.

If I have one big issue with Midnight Special, it’s not because of shallow characters or weird plot points; it’s because it wasn’t that interesting to watch. I wouldn’t call it a train wreck of a film, but it’s a sad case of wasted potential.

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