The team of writer-director Jeff Nichols and actor Michael Shannon has put out three movies together, and so far they’re three for three. Now they’ve teamed up once again, but this time there’s an unexpected twist: Unlike the suspenseful rural dramas Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter, and Mud, their latest collaboration is science fiction.
You might not realize that immediately while watching the first trailer, which came online Thursday afternoon. After all, they’ve returned once again to a fairly grounded-seeming Southern U.S., with Shannon playing a father on the run with his son (played by Aloha and St. Vincent’s Jaeden Lieberher). But soon the Starman-style, vintage-looking special effects kick in (Nichols has said he was inspired John Carpenter’s classic ’80s sci-fi movies), and you realize that Adam Driver’s government goons are chasing after them because the boy isn’t what he seems. (It may be significant that on the poster he’s reading an issue of Superman, who is himself a Starman-like alien fallen to Earth.)
I’m not sure quite what to make of it all—the “savior” line makes me wonder whether Nichols is toying with Biblical themes once again—but Nichols hasn’t made a bad movie yet, and the movie also reunites him with not only Shannon but Sam Shepard (Mud) along with Kirsten Dunst and Joel Edgerton. (Nichols and Edgerton must have liked working together: They’ve already reunited to to shoot a movie about Loving v. Virginia, which once again also co-stars Shannon.) Add in the fact that Nichols and Shannon’s best movie, Take Shelter, also tread a fine line between the real and the fantastical, and Midnight Special is already one of the movies I’m most excited to see in 2016.