When her husband Hammond (Noah Emmerich) ends up on the wrong side of John Bishop (Ewan McGregor) and his men, Jane (Natalie Portman) turns to her former fiancée Dan (Joel Edgerton) to help her defend her family and her home.
I always enjoy watching newer Westerns. It’s a genre that had its heyday between the 1930’s-1960’s and its archetypal characters and stories have in many ways, become the blueprint for a lot of modern western films. Jane Got a Gun puts a woman front and centre, showing both Jane’s trauma and strength as she fights for her loved ones.
Through a series of flashbacks throughout the film you learn more about Jane and her relationships with both Hammond and Dan and see how the three of them have ended up in the situation they’re in. these flashbacks add a lot to the characters but often it feels like it’s just filling time as Jane and Dan prepare for battle. When there is the battle, it’s like a home-invasion thriller. It’s tense and exciting, though it doesn’t show off all the groundwork Jane and Dan put in to its full potential.
Portman gives a dedicated performance, fully embodying the grief, fear and determination Jane has in the face of a much larger and stronger enemy than herself. It’s a pity then that Bishop feels more akin to a pantomime villain, twirling his moustache, than a fleshed-out antagonist.
Jane Got a Gun is a decent addition to the Western genre. It doesn’t really do anything new or ground-breaking, but Portman’s performance and the relationship between Jane and Jan offers a compelling heart to this otherwise typical genre film. 3/5.
Roy (Michael Shannon) goes on the run with his son Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) to protect him from the government and a cult that are drawn to the child’s special abilities.
Midnight Special is a great combination of science-fiction, family drama and a road-chase plot. At its heart is the relationship between and father and son, they have a believable bond for instance when Alton tries to reassure his father that he’ll be OK and Roy says he likes worrying about him, it is one of the most relatable sentiments for a parent or child.
The other key characters include NSA analyst Paul Sevier (Adam Driver) who believes Alton is not what the government nor the cult believe him to be, Lucas (Joel Edgerton) Roy’s loyal friend who will do anything to protect Alton and Sarah (Kirsten Dunst) Alton’s mother. Nearly all the characters have their time to shine though unfortunately Sarah seemed to be underwritten compared to her male counterparts.
The plot of Midnight Special is intriguing and full of suspense as Roy and Alton struggle to stay one step ahead of their pursuers and you’re never sure which would be the lesser of two evils between the government and the cult. The special effects are brilliant and always feel natural and grounded even when things are happening around Alton that are really abnormal.
Midnight Special is one of those films that you really should go into knowing as little as possible. It might not answer all of the viewers’ questions but that’s OK because the ride is wonderful and full of terrific and understated performances. 4/5.