Are you a fan of Jeff Nichols? No? Then you’re doing something wrong.
The 36 year-old director and screenwriter from Little Rock, Arkansas, has thus far released just three movies — 2007’s Shotgun Stories, 2011’s Take Shelter, and 2012’s Mud — but with those has already established himself as a remarkably gifted and singular voice. Nichols’ movies are superbly crafted rural folk tales shot with a distinctive, earthy palette, often exploring the idea of fatherhood. They also make liberal use of one of the best actors working today, Michael Shannon, which is a trick that other filmmakers really should pick up on. Nichols manages somehow to always imbue his small-town drama with an indefinable mythic quality, as if — contemporary setting notwithstanding — you were watching an ancient story play out in front of your eyes, or a fairy tale being born.
Despite this slight aura of magic, all of Nichols’ movies so far have been firmly grounded in reality. Those following his career, however, know that his next feature — and his first major studio picture — is set to be a sci-fi. More specifically: a sci-fi road movie starring Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Sam Shepard, Adam Driver, and (of course) Michael Shannon.
Here’s the first official image, thanks to EW.
The movie is called Midnight Special and it’s about a boy with supernatural powers and his father (Shannon) on the run from the law. It was originally meant to be released this year, but has since been pushed to 2016. It will most likely be shown at SXSW next year.
Nichols has been keeping his cards relatively close to his chest about the movie, which is a gloriously refreshing change from the usual, full-steam ahead, internet hype train that precedes seemingly every studio picture these days, bowling you over with pre-release material to the point that you feel like you’ve seen the whole fucking movie before you’ve even sat down to actually watch the damn thing.
The only worry to potentially consider with Midnight Special is the, ‘small fish; big pond,’ factor. Ask Colin Trevorrow if you don’t know what that is. Or Gareth Edwards, or Josh Trank, or Marc Webb for that matter — all hyper-promising indie directors with a unique voice and gifted hand being handed the keys to a major studio picture recently, and either floundering or imploding completely.
Here’s a refresher of their transitions, just in case:
Colin Trevorrow: The wonderful Safety Not Guaranteed to Jurassic World.
Marc Webb: The fantastic 500 Days of Summer to The Amazing Spider-Man.
Gareth Edwards: The brilliant Monsters to Godzilla.
Josh Trank: The excellent Chronicle to The Fantastic Four.
Some cause for hope: all of those guys above were snatched up by huge players to direct giant tentpole releases not of their own creation — and they each had just one full feature to their name when it happened. By way of contrast, Midnight Special appears to be Nichols’ project from the outset, so it won’t be a case of trying to apply a nice coat of paint to a fundamentally shitty house. This is a Nichols house, alright? This house is fucking solid.
Here’s the poster for the movie (and for anyone who has yet to see Nichols’ previous movies, do it now. Take Shelter — and especially Michael Shannon in it — will destroy you):