On his third pic as writer/director, Jeff Nichols comes up against the law of diminishing returns; and it’s not as if his first two (TAKE SHELTER/’11; MUD/’12) were paragonic.* (See Write-Ups below.) Ignored on release*, it’s the curse of overpraised-talent-found-out, here as a pretentious CGI-afflicted muddle. Young Jaeden Lieberher, a Messianic figure to a Waco-like religious cult, but actually a kind of extraterrestrial ‘star-child,’ has been abducted by his own father (Michael Shannon, the good guy for a change), with help from pal Joel Edgerton. The little kid has an appointment in Samarra, or some such axis point, to complete his life mission, but with his confounding powers of divination (and as nuclear light-bulb) both the Feds & a couple of heavy-handed cult operatives are hot on the trail. Needless to say, the film goes heavy on meta-physical hooey and light on logic or follow-thru, though government psychological expert Adam Driver tries his damnedest to play fair and parse the meaning of the boy being on this earthly plane. The film’s real purpose is to mark a move in Nichols’ visual pilfering, exchanging the Kubrick-meets-Mallick meta-physics finale of TAKE SHELTER to a Spielberg-Mallick æsthetic. Deeper and deeper into shallow waters. You get the feeling that Nichols talks a great game at pitch meetings, but knows he’s shooting blanks. Or maybe this was just a package deal with LOVING, his other film of 2016.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Stick with Robert Wise’s classic THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL/’51.
ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: *Exec produced by new Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at a cost of 20 mill and a gross of 4. That reps a (tax write-off) loss of like 30. Ah, Hollywood accounting.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *'Paragonic?’ Hey, if you can’t make up words in your own damn BLOG . . .