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Brian Coleman, Staff Writer

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By Brian Coleman ’18

Midnight Special

Jeff Nichols’ fourth feature and collaboration with actor Michael Shannon harkens you back to a time when Spielberg perfected sci-fi in the late 1970s and 80s. This included back-to-back hits in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial without feeling too derivative of these genre-defining classics. Midnight Special not only assumes the viewer has the intelligence to draw their own conclusions, but the film moves at a downright leisurely pace in comparison to many competitors at the box office. Shots are long, panoramic, yet intimate: often set against a backdrop of curiously monotonous synthesizer noises, and with long stretches of no dialogue.  By saying almost nothing at all, you feel the relationship between Shannon and his supernaturally-gifted son, Alton (played by Jaeden Lieberher), grow and strain with the creeping tension of the government’s pursuit of this so-called “freak of nature”.

At first glance, Midnight Special can come across as slow, melancholy, and simply not any fun, but if you bear with the cast for about 45 minutes, you’re treated to a moving, gripping drama about one man’s love for his son, and the lengths one will go to ensure the safety of those they love. Jeff Nichols not only made an entertaining movie: he made a masterpiece that I’m not sure he’ll ever top. 

10 Cloverfield Lane

movie-cloverfield

10 Cloverfield Lane is equal parts situational thriller, a tautly-paced stage drama, and a spinoff of 2008’s original Cloverfield all mixed together in a near-perfect cinematic matrimony. Announced less than ten weeks before the film’s premiere, first-time feature director Dan Trachtenberg, in addition to executive production from J.J. Abrams and a major rewrite by Damien Chazelle (of 2014’s Whiplash fame) crafted a emotionally stimulating work that feels instantly refreshing in an era of constant reboots and sequels. 10 Cloverfield works best when you go into it with as little knowledge as possible, effectively keeping you guessing until the movie’s mildly anti-climactic third act and ending.

John Goodman is downright menacing as a former veteran and current doomsday prepare, with Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr. as two  guests of Goodman who suspect a larger agenda is afoot. I’ve often found that most blockbusters at the local multiplex are all about the flashiest eye candy, the loudest action, and the most marketable characters, often with no real gravitas in storytelling. In an infrequent twist from most movies today, the best scenes of this feature are those with the least chatter possible. The cast works wond ers with just a simple glare, a radical change from the bombastic, often mindless pictures screening down the hall at your theater. Trachtenberg crafted mind candy, not eye candy. 10 Cloverfield Lane is the first truly great film of 2016 so far, and one of the best major studio tentpoles I’ve seen in years. It’s a wake-up call for original screenplays everywhere, hopefully leading to an influx of truly visionary works from the wunderkinds of Hollywood in the near future.

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The Movie Reviews