The trailers for Take Shelter looked creepy and it features two of my favorite actors, Michael Shannon (who's going to be ZOD!) and Jessica Chastain. I actually didn't think I was even going to get a chance to see it in the theater, but once again The Vine to the rescue!
This review might be a little spoilery for a movie that I like, but it's another one that's hard to talk about without discussing the plot. However, this really isn't a plot based movie. Once again it's more of a character driven story.
So what's Take Shelter about? You have Michael Shannon as Curtis, who's basically a blue-collar guy. He's a nice guy, works hard and is just trying to take care of his family. He's married to Samantha (Jessica Chastain), and together they have a deaf daughter that's about to have some surgery, so they are struggling with keeping all their bills in check.
Curtis starts having very vivid nightmares that start to carry over into his daily life. He's even having hallucinations. The nightmares are very well done in that you don't know they are happening until it's too late. It's very jarring, but it helps you identify with what he's going through. You then find out that his mother was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic when he was 10-years-old. This is mentioned in the trailer, but even if you haven't seen it, telling you really doesn't spoil anything.
His nightmares have him convinced that something really bad is about to happen, so he begins to buff up their existing tornado shelter to weather the upcoming storm, so to speak. Obviously, this is where 'Take Shelter' comes from. The building of this shelter causes concern amongst his family and friends. It even concerns Curtis as he's trying to figure out if he's crazy or not. As you watch the movie, you're wondering that, too. Is he crazy? Is he right that something's coming? Both?
From that point it's more about watching Curtis struggle with everything. It's another psychological character piece, where you're just along for the ride. Take Shelter really felt like a thriller, almost a horror, with the tone and some of the things that happen. It's also made a little more eerie due to the soundtrack. You get a sense of dread throughout the movie.
It's nice to see the level of commitment to the characters the actors have here. There are a lot of nice touches, like Chastain's character knowing sign language, but Shannon's knowing only just enough to communicate with his daughter on a basic level.
While it's a slowly paced movie, I was never bored. You're just so into what's going on and seeing what happens next. You have to primarily credit this to Michael Shannon's performance. He says so much with just a look. I felt so sympathetic to his character. When I see his role here, it makes me all the more excited to see how he's going to play Zod in the upcoming Superman movie. Not that anyone could ever outdo Terrence Stamp's Zod, but still.
Jessica Chastain as Samantha is great as she always is. Despite that the movie is more about Curtis, you always have the feeling the Samantha is really the boss.
Take Shelter was written and directed by Jeff Nichols, who, like many other directors I've seen this year, doesn't have a lot of movies to his credit. He did write and direct something else called Shotgun Stories, which also stars Michael Shannon, so it looks like I'm going to have to check it out now.
Overall, I really liked Take Shelter, but I was into the movie from the beginning. My anticipation for the movie probably affected how much I liked this. It is a smart film, but not for everyone. I don't mean that like it sounds though. It's just that Take Shelter is a movie you will likely have to process and think about after. The slow pacing of the film may put off some viewers, but I was able to just kind of zone in on the performances. It's worth watching just for that alone. I also enjoyed the tone of the film and feeling I got from it.
Take Shelter is out of most theaters at this point, outside of The Vine, so it's a good rental unless you live in the Livermore area and can head over to The Vine. I do recommend checking it out though.