"Midnight Special" is a tightly wound sci-fi mystery that treats its audience with respect by trusting that we're smart enough to decode its secrets and draw our own conclusions through our imagination.
The movie immediately thrusts us into a chase where an Amber Alert has been issued for Alton, played by Jaeden Lieberher, a boy out of San Angelo believed to have been abducted by his father, played by the great Michael Shannon.
Shannon's getting help from close friends Joel Edgerton and Kirsten Dunst, and they're all being pursued by law enforcement and other groups who want to get the boy back because of some special abilities he may have. I won't say more about that, only that the title of the movie refers to an old song that provides a clue.
Shannon knows something about his boy and he's trying to get him somewhere before they're caught. No more plot details here because it's fantastic to watch this movie slowly reveal itself to us. Nichols is very deliberate in what he shows us and when. And while there are sci-fi elements, at its core, this is a story about a father believing in his son.
And in a time where we're seeing an influx of pandering religious movies preaching to the choir, (looking at you, "God's Not Dead 2"), "Midnight Special" is a movie with real spiritual substance about the nature of belief and answering the call to become who you truly are.
"Midnight Special" is the kind of movie "Sixth Sense" director M. Night Shyamalan would be making if he hadn't completely lost it. There are also echoes of early Spielberg in Nichols' film. That's good company to be in, and so is this movie.