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Midnight Special (Blu-ray Review)

Midnight-SpecialDiscover the truth when “Midnight Special” arrives onto Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD. The film stars Oscar® nominee Michael Shannon (“99 Homes,” “Man of Steel”), Joel Edgerton (“Black Mass”), Kirsten Dunst (TV’s “Fargo”), Adam Driver (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”), Jaeden Lieberher (“St. Vincent”) and Oscar nominee Sam Shepard (“The Right Stuff,” “August Osage County”). This all-star cast brings to life a suspenseful and heroic story about fatherhood and protecting the ones you love.  Jeff Nichols (“Mud,” “Take Shelter”) directed the film from his own screenplay. It is produced by Oscar nominee Sarah Green (“The Tree of Life,” “Mud”) and Brian Kavanaugh-Jones (the “Insidious” films, “Sinister”), who previously collaborated with Nichols on his critically acclaimed thriller, “Take Shelter.” Glen Basner (“Mud”), Hans Graffunder (“Somebody Up There Likes Me”), and Christos V. Konstantakopoulos (“Take Shelter”) served as executive producers.

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Film 

“Midnight Special” follows a father, Roy, who goes on the run to protect his young son, Alton, a boy with mysterious powers that even Roy himself cannot comprehend.  What starts as a race from religious extremists and local law enforcement quickly escalates to a nationwide manhunt involving the highest levels of the Federal Government. Risking everything, Roy is committed to helping Alton reach his ultimate purpose, whatever that might be and whatever it costs, in a story that takes audiences on a perilous journey from Texas to the Florida coast, while exploring the bonds of love and trust, and the nature of faith.

All aboard the Jeff Nichols hype-train.  Admittedly, I’ve not seen his 2007 film Shotgun Stories (Which I will be seeking out as soon as possible), Midnight Special makes this a 3 for 3 on his resume with me.  Mud was one of my favorite films of 2012 and Take Shelter was also fantastic.  While I’m sure people working on big studio tentpoles have been taking note, I hope Nichols can continue to make the fully realized low-midlevel films he’s been putting out as they are quite their own and usually unlike the rest of the year’s output.

On Midnight Special, Nichols teams for the fourth time with Michael Shannon.  Shannon, one of today’s finest and best performers, turns in another solid turn.  This may be one of the most regular, normal performance from him, but its absolutely loaded with subtleties and layers that make it that much more full, complete, human and why he’s the best in the business.  Also worth mentioning, Kirsten Dunst (Having a Renai-Dunst?)  follows her fantastic turn on Fargo’s second season (Robbed of a Golden Globe, deserving of an Emmy nomination) up with another solid turn here.  Hopefully she’s carving out a nice new chapter in her career, as I definitely want to see much more of what she’s bringing.

The film displays an exercise in intrigue, mystery and ambiguity.  Everything here works and isn’t overdone and isn’t under cooked either.  This has the perfect amount of give and take.  It allows the audience to theorize over the events seen in the film, but also with plenty of evidence to naturally support their ideas.  No, its not a movie where you do that because its missing a ton of stuff.  Midnight Special is one that allows the audience to sort of “own” this movie in a certain way.  And its not heavy handed at all.  I think most will come away with the same experience and thoughts, but maybe with a slight digression.  It very much gave me the same sort of feeling like another favorite film of mine from recent years, The Sound Of My Voice.

Midnight Special is one of the year’s must sees.  It has sort of the want of a bigger blockbuster film, but the charm, thought and craftiness of an independent feature.  The film builds on strong performances and a loose script that keeps you guessing and enjoying the chase and suspense from scene to scene.  It naturally builds to its conclusion with arcs completing across the board.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail:  Midnight Special comes to Blu-ray in a sharp and defined picture from Warner Bros Home Entertainment.  The image is a bit dark, but that’s due to the nature of the story taking place mostly at night.  When daytime and well lit scenes do occur you can definitely see all the realistic beauty of the film’s cinematography on display.

Depth:  People move smoothly and cinematic with minimal blur.  Spacing is excellent with a real 3 dimensional feel really coming into place in interiors.

Black Levels:  Blacks are really rich and consistent.  No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  Colors take on a full and natural look.  Blues and greens look quite good.  Whites are pretty impressive.

Flesh Tones:  Natural and have a consistent appearance for the full duration.  Wrinkles, freckles, make-up, scuffs and stubble all look quite noticeable and clear in medium and closeup shots.

Noise/Artifacts: Negative

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Audio 

Audio Format(s)English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 5.1 Dolby Digital. French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese

Dynamics:  A nice, above average experience here.  Its a movie that both calls for a big full action 5.1 track and then also sits and enjoys the quiet moments as well.  This well balanced mix, between vocals, score and effects also is loose and well rounded in its presentation.

Low Frequency Extension:  During the shaky sequences, shotgun blasts, car crashes, engines humming and helicopters thumping you get some good accurate pumps from the subwoofer.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Volume placement here is top notch.  Also, motion from back and forth is done well.  Rear speakers get to play and have some fun during big moments, especially blue eye’d freak outs.  There is also some really good ambiance. 

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is crisp and clean.  It also wonderfully reflects each environment it enters.  Which sounds like “duh” but I thought this one captured it better than most.

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Extras 

Midnight Special comes with an UltraViolet Digital Copy of the film.

Origins (HD, 5:12) – A little piece with Jeff Nichols discussing his inspirations and thematics for the film.

The Unseen (HD, 12:36) –  A 5-part little piece by piece series going over each of the main characters in the film.

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Summary 

Severe lack of bonus materials notwithstanding, Midnight Special’s Blu-ray release still looks and sounds very good.  The film also is good enough quality and something worth multiple revisits that at the right pricing, its completely worth owning.  Its easily one of the top films from the first half of 2016, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it still is for many people come December.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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