I can't think of anything worse than discovering that Heaven is most certainly real and then realizing that it is not for you. Sadly, that is the case for every character in "Midnight Special." Except for Alton Meyer, one miraculous child.
And the search for Paradise, or even just happiness is at the heart of Jeff Nichols' film "Midnight Special."
Nichols takes his time as he lets us know slowly what's going on.
The beginning of the movie feels very experiential and surreal.
I knew I was in for a good time when the congregation of a bizarre church/cult started to chant coordinates instead of Holy Scripture. The sequence is so surreal, it gives off a feeling of a hypnotic hallucination.
In the second act, though, the film settles down into a more or less traditional narrative.
It's the story of Alton Meyer who is taken from his church "family" by his father, Roy.
You see, something will happen in the next few days and it's important to Roy that his child be as far from the church/cult as possible.
Of course, his church wants Alton to be with them during this supposedly crucial time.
The rest of the film is a pretty standard race-against-time suspense/thriller.
The Feds desperately want to find Alton. And, like formulaic thrillers, the film slowly pulls the curtain back as we come to understand what's so damn important about this boy.
The leaders of the church/cult also obsessively pursue Alton. The coordinates they recited as Scripture will show them the way to something like Paradise. These people will not rest until they find him and unlock his secret.
It was a great disappointment watching a film with such a promising first act regress into such a predictable and conventional film.
So, come for the delightful and enchanting first act and stay just because you end up curious about what happens to the little kid.
Either resign yourself to an hour or so of relative boredom or stay away from "Midnight Special" altogether. I'd recommend the former.
The first act really is worth the price of admission.