Friday, April 27, 2012

Take Shelter

Take Shelter (2011)
Drama, Thriller, 120 minutes
Directed by Jeff Nichols
Starring Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain and Shea Whigham

What would you do if you thought that you and your family were in danger of being killed by a deadly storm?

Take Shelter shows us a glimpse inside the mind of Curtis (Shannon), who has vivid dreams of an approaching storm. In his dreams, his wife and young daughter are in terrible danger. The film sometimes blurs the line between fantasy and reality and we see events unfold that are later revealed as dreams. His dog bites him in one such event and unidentified strangers attack him and his daughter in another episode.

We all have nightmares, but Curtis experiences more than just dreams. He also hears the storm approaching. While he is working outside with his colleague, Dewart (Whigham), Curtis hears a thunderbolt strike. Dewart doesn't hear a thing.

Do you trust what you see and hear without question? What would you think if you could hear things that nobody else could?

If what Curtis experiences is really happening, how is that possible? Is it some form of intervention from God? It is some kind of psychic ability? Is the subconscious mind revealing what Curtis knows on some level?

To complicate matters, Curtis was left alone outside a store as a child when his mother had a mental breakdown and just walked away. He visits her in a nursing home because he fears that he might be going down the same path. It's such a realistic possibility that we are drawn into his world. Is he going crazy? He seems rational most of the time, but then he experiences another dream or hallucination.

His wife, Samantha (Chastain), is more than patient. We get the feeling that their relationship is strong and she clearly loves him. In a good relationship, it should be possible to talk openly about such problems, but Curtis initially hides everything from her. This is done out of fear. He's afraid of what might be happening to him and he's embarrassed about his experiences. He visits a doctor and a psychiatrist without her knowledge and even makes a serious financial decision without discussing it.

Lack of communication is a huge problem in most relationships. If you are with the person you are supposed to trust more than anyone in the world, why can't you voice all of your fears? Curtis is eventually compelled to talk to Samantha because there's no other way to explain his bizarre behavior.

Take Shelter shows us what occurs in the mind of a tormented man. The tension slowly builds and we can sense that something is going to happen. Is Curtis going crazy, or will all of his actions be justified? I won't reveal that here.

The ending is somewhat controversial. I liked it a lot and think it was the perfect way to conclude the story. Shannon does a great job in the final scenes and there's one particular expression which speaks volumes. Unfortunately, I can't talk about it without ruining things.

The film only cost around $1 million to make, but it achieves more than many big-budget productions. The story felt real to me and I could easily empathize with everything Curtis went through. The two hours went by fast and the tension was incredible.

Overall score 4/5

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  1. Great review, Steven! This is very high on my watch-list! Shannon and Chastain are two actors I like very much.

  2. Thanks Fernando.

    I don't think you will be disappointed.

  3. Nice review Steve, This was probably my second favorite film last year, after Drive. I thought both Shannon and Chastain were both spectacular in this. Needless to say I felt this film got shafted come Oscar time.

    If you feel like checking it out we have a lengthy discussion regarding the ending of the film and peoples interpretations over on our blog.

  4. Thanks. I would place it in the 6-10 range from last year.

    I'll try to check out your discussion when I can, but I am busy applying for jobs at the moment. I usually add a lot more content than my production over the past two weeks.