From acclaimed filmmaker Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter, Mud) comes a genre-defying thriller starring long-time collaborator Michael Shannon (Take Shelter, 99 Homes) alongside a brilliant ensemble cast including Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Girls), Kirsten Dunst (Fargo, Spider-Man), Joel Edgerton (Warrior), Sam Shepard (Bloodline, Mud) and talented newcomer Jaeden Lieberher (St Vincent).

Roy (Michael Shannon) is a father desperate to protect his uniquely gifted eight-year-old son in this gripping take on the sci-fi movie, which proves once again that director Jeff Nichols is one of the most compelling storytellers of our time. As father and son go on the run, an intense chase ensues as they are hunted down by a mysterious cult and a clandestine government agency – the outcome of which could bring about a world-changing event.

Jeff Nichols fourth feature Midnight Special is a smart and inventive sci-fi chase movie that spends the majority of its running time keeping both its characters and its audience in the dark as to its ultimate destination.

The film opens with a news report about the abduction of an eight year old boy and then cuts to two men and a mysterious goggles-wearing child in a motel room with cardboard covered windows. We soon learn that one of the men is the boy's father, determined to get his son to a specific place at a specific time. In pursuit are FBI agents and members of a mysterious cult trying to get their hands on the child and his 'powers' for their own reasons. So begins an enigmatic and intriguing tale that keeps exposition to a bare minimum and gives its audience enough credit to work out the details they can as the story progresses. It's fair to say that this is one film that it's best knowing as little about going in.

What's worth pointing out is that Nichols appears to be channelling the best kind of emotionally grounded sci-fi that was prevalent in the '80s. Close Encounters, E.T. and Starman are all clear touchstones here. Starman in particular is wonderfully evoked by David Wingo's beautiful John Carpenter-like electronic score.

Unlike certain films around at the moment it doesn't over-stuff things with too much CGI but certainly makes it count when it does make use of it. The first display of the boy's 'powers' is incredibly striking and unnerving, whilst a mid-film set piece involving fireballs raining down on a gas station is extraordinary.

A fantastic cast keeps the emotional heart of the tale beating with Michael Shannon and Jaeden Lieberher both excellent as the father and son. Lieberher, in particular, building on the promise he showed opposite Bill Murray in St Vincent. Equally solid are Kirsten Dunst as the mother, Joel Edgerton as Shannon's co-abductor/saviour, Adam Driver as an NSA agent and Sam Shepard as the cult leader.

Those who like their films unambiguous and clearly explained may well find Midnight Special unsatisfying. Even when it reaches its finale, questions still remain unanswered. Certainly, admirers of Nichols' earlier films like Take Shelter and Mud may find this easier to accept than more mainstream audiences.

Go into this with an open mind however and you'll be rewarded with an affecting and thrilling journey that utilises strong genre techniques to tell an emotionally resonant story about the powerful bond between parents and their children.

Review by Kevin Knapman

Midnight Special (12A)

1h 52m

Director: Jeff Nichols
Starring: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver

UK Release: Friday 8th April 2016