This is the latest in the occasional series on movies that have themes that will be appealing to latter-day Saints.
The movie being reviewed is called “Midnight Special,” which is a sci-fi flick about a boy who has special powers and his parents’ attempts to protect him from the government and a cult leader who want to kidnap him.
Let me point out that the title is very disappointing and does not do this movie justice. The title makes it sound like a tawdry cop buddy movie, when in fact it is a surprisingly family-friendly film intended to get the audience to think about the Big Questions. This is one of those rare movies that does not have any swearing, no sex, no nudity and only a bit of violence (thus the PG-13 rating). The acting and directing is excellent.
I want to warn you that I cannot review this movie from the Mormon perspective without SPOILERS. This is a movie that relies on mystery and surprise, so do not read the rest of this review unless you don’t plan on seeing the movie or unless you have already seen it.
The movie starts out with a man and his friend driving through Texas with an eight-year-old boy. The TV news claims they have kidnapped the boy, but it turns out the man (played by Michael Shannon) is the boy’s father. The boy wears strange goggles and seems allergic to light.
Meanwhile, a cult leader (played by Sam Shepherd) is trying to get the boy. We learn that the boy has made a series of prophecies and appears to have special powers that the cult feels will save them from a doomsday event coming up in a few days. Meanwhile, the FBI and the NSA are trying to find the boy because he has apparently discovered top secret government information (using his as yet unknown special powers).
We discover that the father is driving to a specific location along the Florida coast and is trying to keep the boy away from both the cult and the government. Of course there are the usual road blocks and car chases and a couple gun fights along the way. The father reunites the boy with his mother (played by Kirsten Dunst), and together they try to get the boy to the Florida location. The father is accompanied by his friend Lucas played by Joel Edgerton, who is a former state trooper who is convinced to help the family.
We learn that the boy has been unable to be outside in the daylight since he was an infant. He has several special abilities: he can hear satellite and radio broadcasts in his head, he can make prophecies about the future, and his eyes are extremely sensitive but become filled with light unexpectedly.
As the movie progresses, we learn that the boy is not a human being like us but belongs to a race of people who live above the Earth in another dimension. We cannot see them with our material eyes, but they exist all around us in spectacular, modern structures. They are described as people who “watch over us.”
The boy eventually is reunited with his people, and we are given a vision of how this race of beings looks. They have bodies but we cannot see their bodies clearly. Mostly we see them as beings of light. Once the boy returns to his people, his father is held in a federal prison but appears happy because he has had a special connection with a heavenly being. His friend Lucas points out that he “believes” in the beings that other people did not see.
The people who had the special experience with the boy have a faith that other people around them do not share.
There are some really interesting Mormon themes in this movie. First and most importantly, the movie creates another world in another dimension on our own Earth. This world is filled with advanced, peaceful beings who watch over us. We can see this world either as the spirit world or as a celestial world on Earth. The beings of light can be seen as angels.
The boy’s prophetic abilities are of course interesting from a Mormon perspective. We are meant to see the cult leader as misguided and perhaps even evil, but upon reflection it seems obvious that the boy was sent to the cult (called “The Ranch”) because he could not have existed in normal society without being shut away in a government research facility from a very young age. The boy’s prophecies are considered scripture by the cult leader.
The boy makes direct connections with the people around him, showing them visions that inspire devotion to his special nature. If you have ever felt the Holy Ghost confirm that some people are filled with the Spirit, you can see a similarity between how you might feel towards those people and how people treat the boy.
It is extremely rare these days to see a movie that is not filled with gratuitous sex, violence and profanity. And with the exception of two short violent scenes, this movie is very family-friendly. I highly recommend it.