MIDNIGHT SPECIAL

— by Jeff Schultz

E.T. reimagined as a chase film. For much of it, the unsettling tension — punctuated by at least three unexpected eruptions — keeps us on edge. It’s built around the abduction from a religious cult of an eight-year-old boy by his father. But neither the cult nor Federal investigators, both working frantically to find the boy, quite know what they’re dealing with — and only gradually is it revealed to the audience. We know the boy has some kind of supernatural power, but not from whence it came until toward the end, when you can see what’s coming because Spielberg has already taken us there. (Twice, actually: there’s a big dollop of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS here, too.) There are fine turns from Michael Shannon (the father), Joel Edgerton (his close friend) and in a smaller role as the cult leader, Sam Shepard. Kirsten Dunst has less to do, but does her best, along with the rest of a lesser-known cast, among whom Adam Driver and Bill Camp should be singled out, and not only for their arresting faces. Plus the boy, Jaeden Lieberher, is a natural whose underplaying effectively emphasizes his other-worldliness. The movie goes on too long, and the big effect at the end is more visually striking than sense-making, but worth seeing for sure

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