Mar 27, 2016

REVIEW: MIDNIGHT SPECIAL (Nichols)


'The director Jeff Nichols  has rather crept up on us, much like his films. He has made four of them — “Shotgun Stories” (2007), “Take Shelter” (2011), “Mud” (2012), and now “Midnight Special” — in which his themes have emerged as clearly as oncoming headlights at night. The settings is the forgotten American heartland of trailer homes and pickup trucks,  gas stations and motels, beer and bad TV. His characters are blue-collar workers, the kind of people who, in Obama’s clanger of 2008, “cling to guns or religion”. In another filmmaker’s world they would be dismissed as religious nuts — conspiracy cultists, hoarding books on lay-lines and blanking out their windows to keep out the daylight. In Nichols world they are the heroes. Here, the wackjobs are right.  In one extraordinary sequence, great balls of fire descend from the heavens on a lonely gas station, scorching and crumpling the tarmac: the world of Edward Hopper interrupted by the world of Steven Spielberg. It is to Spielberg that many reviewers have turned for comparisons — in particular the early Spielberg of E.T. and Close Encounters, who dreamed of alien visitation in terms of rampaging hoovers and runaway toys — but there’s no music playing during the sequence, which is almost silent but for the sound of the crumpling tarmac. Nichols works in a maximalist film culture, in a maximalist genre (sci-fi) but he is a bona fide minimalist, a master of the ellipse: Take Shelter was maybe the sparest movie about the apocalypse you’ll ever see. This film, too, is shaved to the bone.   In one scene, a man levels a gun at another man’s head, a scene we’ve seen enough to know that the filmmaking world divides into two camps: those who would show the gunshot and those who would cut to the exterior of the dwelling and the muffled sound of a gunshot.  Nichols does neither: he cuts on the sound of the victim’s increasingly rapid breathing and moves calmly into the next scene. No exterior. No gunshot. What more do we need than a man’s last breath?' — from my review of Midnight Special for The Economist

2 comments:

  1. Saya : Vimax

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