Two of the actors from Boardwalk Empire take on this tale of either upcoming apocalypse or a mental apocalypse by a single character. What we get is a masterfully acted suspense thriller about one man’s fears and how it affects his life and family.
Curtis (Michael Shannon) is a construction worker. He’s married to Samantha (Jessica Chastain) and they have a daughter (Tova Stewart) who is deaf. His job has him working with his pal Dewart (Shea Whigham) and things seem normal for Curtis. That is until he starts having horrifically realistic dreams that seem to portend an impending doom that will destroy much.
Curtis can’t decide if he’s been given the gift of future prognostication or that he is succumbing to the paranoid schizophrenia that has caused his mother (Kathy Baker) to be institutionalized. He can’t help but start expanding the family’s storm shelter in case his visions come true. However, this creates strain on the family and his life since he is spending time and money on the project and trying to hide it from everyone lest they think him crazy.
I guess Take Shelter could’ve gone in a completely different direction if not for the powerhouse performance of Shannon. We’re very familiar that he can do glaring intensity (see Boardwalk Empire) yet in this film he portrays an ordinary family man. A bit sinister looking perhaps, but we never get the impression that he’s nothing but a family man with a loving wife and child.
That is until the dreams start, dreams so real that when he gets bitten by his dog in them his arm hurts for days after. They show that something terrible is on the horizon and create a fear in Curtis. Firstly, fear of the events shown to him in them and secondly to the fact that his mother is a schizophrenic and maybe he is losing his mind too.
Being the family man, he starts to try and prepare for these ominous events the best way that he can by expanding the storm shelter. Unfortunately, at the cost of all else as he takes a bad deal on a loan to fund it and it may put an operation for their daughter, to restore her hearing, in jeopardy. When all this is discovered, Samantha is rightly angry but decides to stand by her man.
Both Shannon and Chastain portray their characters beautifully and maybe against type in these types of films. More quite than bombast, though there are still moments of bombast. I’d imagine that in other directorial hands there would be more yelling and less quiet moments.
In doing so we feel bad for Curtis and his family and are also put into mind of those that try and bring warnings and are unheeded. We don’t know if “the end is near” is really near or just a figment of their imagination. Take Shelter is so well acted that its thrilling to find out in this case.
Taking Shelter is presented in a 1080p high definition transfer (2.35:1). Special features, all in high-def, include a commentary from director Jeff Nichols and Shannon, the 10 minute “Behind the Scenes of Take Shelter,” a 20 minute “Q&A with Shannon and Whigham,” 6 minutes of deleted scenes, and the 2 minute theatrical trailer.
Take Shelter doesn’t take any worn paths in telling its tale. The storyline is bolstered greatly by some fine acting. Do yourself a favor and check this one out… before the storm comes.
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