TAKE SHELTER (2011)
WOW! This is one of the best and eeriest films I have seen all year! As mentioned before in my post about MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE, I'm not a big spook-seeker when it comes to films, but I do like a good thriller that keeps one guessing. I suppose I was never into the genre that suddenly popped things out at you with jolts of loud strings on the soundtrack, but I can appreciate a good psychologically creepy film when I see one, and TAKE SHELTER is one of them! On top of having all the dread and approaching doom that the trailer hints at (that I spoke of a little while ago), it also has a sustained level of tension, just one of those films that I really had no idea which way it was going to go and it was a pleasure to watch.
So, what is it about? Michael Shannon plays Curtis, a man who becomes plagued with nightmares and apocalyptic nightmares. Unable to explain himself to anyone including his wife and daughter, for fear of being labelled mentally ill like his mother, he begins to clean up and prepare the old storm shelter burried in his backyard. But for what? Curtis feels a storm coming unlike anything that has come before, and he must protect his family and himself from whatever comes. Tensions boil over as he sinks more and more time and money into his project, that no one can understand, as his nightmares and visions become worse. It is such a well made film, and director Jeff Nichols paces it like a good Hitchcock film, establishing a firm emotional connection to his main characters and then introducing doom and gloom and many a foreboding thunderstorm on the horizon. I thought he showed great restraint especially in the nightmares and visions that Curtis has; he is a filmmaker who understands that basic principle that showing and object or place and then allowing the audience to spook themselves out by imagining all the terrible things that could happen.
Michael Shannon did an excellent job in a role that takes a lot of subtlety. Curtis has an intense inner turmoil and what Michael Shannon does to convey Curtis' deteriorating condition and his struggle to keep his life together is incredible. As Curtis' wife, Jessica Chastain (I'm just going to assume she is in every single release this year) was also incredible, as a strong woman who has her own struggle of trying to balance her compassion with her confusion and subsequent anger with Curtis' behavior. I expect both Shannon and Chastain will receive some Oscar attention for this film! And I also really liked the slightly ambiguous ending, which I understand has polarized some people, and indeed in the theatre as soon as the credits started I heard some people muttering "what the hell!" but I LIKED it! So go see it and decide for yourself! This movie haunted me for the rest of that evening, at least, so be forewarned, it may take a lot out of you emotionally and psychologically!