Quick Hit: This Spielbergian science fiction film features beautiful filming, wonderful acting, but few answers.
There’s very little I can reveal about this movie without giving too much away. I feel like it’s a bit like Arrival in that sense. However, I will say this – director Joe Nichols (who did a movie I thought was slightly sub-par, Loving) – knows his influences and isn’t afraid of emulating them. I’ll add more to this statement as I go along, but keep in mind, I rather enjoyed this film despite the fact so many things seem derivative of others.
Without spoiling much, there is a little boy who has been taken by his father. That boy is obviously Different (capitalized on purpose) because there are so many parties interested in him. First, there is an entire cult that is built upon the boy. Second, the military becomes interested in how he could possibly know military secrets. Though this has the plot line of something with a much larger scope, the film downplays it immediately. What we get most of the film is a quiet family drama.
Michael Shannon stars as Roy, the boy Alton’s father. He is accompanied by another man, Lucas (Joel Edgerton). The two men are well suited to each other in a rough and tumble way. Some moments of quiet humor emanate from their interactions, which seem both familiar and distant. The reason for this is given later (if there’s one thing this movie does, it’s delay answers to questions). “Alton is all that matters”, Roy states in the beginning, and the film revolves around that point. Shannon is direct and on point here, and I was happy that Edgerton was good too. Both are easy with their bodies and their emotions show through. It's not nearly as hard a role for Shannon as Nocturnal Animals, or as boring a role for Edgerton as Loving.
A lot of the dialogue in this film is easy and truthful. It’s simplistic, but full of meaning. “You don’t have to worry about me”, says Alton. Roy replies “I like worrying about you.” This is spoken both on their faces, and with their words. It also says multitudes about the relationship between them, which is the same as the relationship between Lucas and Roy – filled with love, but it is a distant one. Also, if I've ever heard a line that better describes being a parent, I've forgotten it.
The film is beautiful. In one haunting scene in the beginning, we are shown a Camaro, primer covered and ready for paint, cruising down the road with its lights off in order to avoid the authorities. It is extremely reminiscent of early John Carpenter. There is another scene, as Kirsten Dunst goes off into the woods with Alton (she’s his mom, and for the most part isn’t used correctly) that is great, if outdone by the scene of Alton and Roy in the field. As I stated, Spielberg has a definitive influence here, to the point where Alton is even covered in a sheet to hide him from the sun, much like E.T. was covered by a sheet all those years ago.
The worst part is the film, despite having quite a few effects at the end, never seems to give all the answers you want it to. In other words, the thing that differentiates it from the excellent Arrival is the neat little bow at the end. But, the film is stood good enough to warrant a “B+” from me.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"