Take Shelter

"Take Shelter Movie Poster"

Plagued by a series of apocalyptic visions, a young husband and father questions whether to shelter his family from a coming storm, or from himself.

IMDb [7.7/10]

RottenTomatoes [92%, 93%]

Every year there is a movie that has big critical and festival success, but for some reason gets no recognition from the Academy Awards. This year, I believe Take Shelter takes the award for “Biggest Snub”. You can take a look at this link to see all of the film’s 27 wins and 18 nominations from the year’s collective festivals and award ceremonies.

Michael Shannon [Revolutionary Road] plays Curtis, a working man living in Ohio countryside town with his wife Samantha, played by Jessica Chastain [The Tree of Life, The Help], and his hearing impaired daughter Hannah. He has a good life, everything one would need to be happy. This is not the case for Curtis, however. He is haunted by visions of oil-raining storms and nightmares of his loyal dog attacking him, getting into car crashes and people coming after him and his daughter. His wife begins to notice when his behavior reflects what he sees in these visions and nightmares, and tension builds. As time goes on, Curtis’ condition gets worse, and more and more people in his life and community start to take notice. Out of fear for his families safety, Curtis uses money he doesn’t have to build a tornado shelter in the backyard, which is close to being the breaking point for himself and his family. Everything seems to be building up to one moment: the storm.

Michael Shannon is scary good. I mean that literally. On the brink of complete mental collapse, his outburst at the community center is something of the likes I’ve never seen. Terrifying and real. To now know that he not only didn’t win the best actor award from the Academy, but wasn’t even nominated makes me question why anyone takes those awards seriously, including myself. Maybe I won’t from now on. This is the first lead work I have seen from Shannon, and it was sensational. This performance takes a late spot for my best actor of 2011, and Shannon will always be on my to-watch list. Hopefully I’ll find some time to go back and watch some of his past work as well.

Writer/director Jeff Nichols has only produced one other film, which he also wrote and directed, and it also starred Michael Shannon. It also found success at festivals and out Nichols name on the map, and this new movie has thrown him into the spotlight, along with more confirmation of Shannon’s powerful acting abilities. Nichol’s film is a well written and directed one all the way through, but the last 10 minutes is when you see the peak of performance from the collection of leading actors and director. The suspense, anticipation and curiosity that you feel is sincere, the whole movie leading to this one point in time. The ending of this film comes out of nowhere, something incredible and horribly unexpected. One of the best ends to a film I can remember.

I’d like to take a moment to talk about Jessica Chastain. Her performance was fulfilling as Samantha, but this movie is only part of what I want to talk about. In 2008, Chastain had her first film role in Jolene, which wasn’t a major release, and then another film, Stolen, in 2009, which only grossed $7,500 in the US. She was hard at work in 2010, and in 2011, something I’ve never seen before happened. Chastain had six major movie appearances in one year. The Debt, Take Shelter, Coriolanus, The Tree of Life, The Help, and Texas Killing Fields all were nationally released in 2011. No movie-goer had ever heard of this woman before The Debt came out, and then she had five other films come out in rapid succession. Now, this wouldn’t be as ridiculous if Chastain wasn’t such a rare find. She is clearly talented, most anyone who has seen any of those six films should tell you that, and she also has a rare beauty to her, a unique look. How she didn’t launch her career before this is mind-boggling, but she made up for it with her insane 2011. She was nominated for best supporting actress for her work in The Help, and she currently has 6 more films slated for 2012 releases. It’s safe to say that 2011, and eventually 2012, was the year of Chastain. Not to mention her being voted one of the best dressed at the Academy Awards.

The main theme is also really well done in terms of meshing with the film. I’m a sap for movie soundtracks, and this specific track is one I am definitely adding to my collection.

My Rating

 4/4 – Writer/director Jeff Nichols and lead actor Michael Shannon both go far beyond good performances in a story of one man’s visions of a coming storm and his efforts to keep his mind in check and his family safe. One of the best endings to a film I have seen in a long, long time.


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