A few years ago I watched Jeff Nichols' film Take Shelter based on a review. I didn't know anything about the director but after seeing the movie, and the compulsory viewing of the director's commentary to rewatch it right after the credits started running from the first viewing I was instantly a huge fan of Nichols and Michael Shannon. I had never seen Shannon in anything before that movie but his presence in Take Shelter and the fun way that he got along with Nichols on the commentary had me realizing that there was something special with that team. Shannon very quickly went on to becoming a regular in movies and on TV (Boardwalk Empire, I understand) and he even tried to kill Superman.
The two are reunited after Shannon only had a smaller part in Nichols' last film Mud (due to Shannon's schedule on other projects) and this movie solidifies the grand praise I have for Nichols' film making abilities. This is a movie that both has moments when the audience breaths in the landscape and the beautiful shots but also surprises with action sequences and high drama.
The main character of this movie is a boy with mysterious powers who is torn between more forces than are realized early in the film. He is kidnapped away from a cult at the beginning of the film by his father and another man, and for the rest of the film the cult, and the federal government are trying to find the boy as his powers both empower and harm him.
This felt to me like the natural progression of Hitchcock's suspense and storytelling, Spielberg's humanity and visual scale with a deeper sense that Nichols adds to weigh the religious-like power of the boy and the damage of his exploitation. I liked Stranger Things quite a bit and I found this to cover more ground and execute similar themes better in the length of a feature film.