Page 1 of 3
You might want to move your home theater setup into your panic room for this Michael Shannon/Jessica Chastain freak-out apocalypse drama....
Sony / 121 Minutes / 2011 / Rated R / Street Date: February 14, 2012
Crazy swirls around Take Shelter in ominous, extensive ways. Jeff Nichols' freak-out drama is no mere character drama (as its plain-jane cover might lead one to expect): No, things here are not okay. Whether it's terrifying dreams of a universal destruction to come or the simple act of a man going through the motions of being a husband and father, there's no respite in Take Shelter to, well, take shelter in.
A colleague of mine referred to Take Shelter when she saw it in cinemas last fall as "Field of Dreams on meth", and as idiosyncratic as a phrase like that might be, she has a point. In the film, a fella named Curtis (a sensational Michael Shannon) starts having bad dreams. I mean, really bad ones - visions of death and apocalypse and all that fun stuff. But in an attempt to keep a steady hegemony to his personal life, he keeps these fevered insights to himself, instead focusing his efforts on building a storm shelter in his back yard to save himself and his kin from the firestorms to come.
Take Shelter is an atypical film - it was a little too out-there to gain any kind of major awards season traction - but as such, it's a creepy, enthralling diversion. Nichols is able to keep his plates spinning throughout the movie (there's no down time here), and with Shannon and on-screen wife Jessica Chastain each delivering thundering yet understated performances, the movie has a fantastic ability to get under your skin (especially during a first watch).
It's the kind of movie whose reputation demands not thinking about it too much - the logic behind it works wonderfully as a dramatic ruse, but as a legitimate storytelling device, it's pretty thin - but if a viewer simply succumbs to the mood and feel of Take Shelter, there are riches to be mind. Unlike its festival-favorite stablemate Another Earth, Take Shelter doesn't just resort to the gimmick at its center. No, in this disorienting narrative scope where dream, reality, and visions of the future all pile up on one another, a simple default gimmick would be enough to keep the bogeymen at bay.