Take Shelter is a blistering descent into madness and psychotic unease. Michael Shannon leads the story as Curtis, a modern-day Noah who has been having dreams about a storm that is approaching, a storm unlike anything the world has ever seen. Birds fly in wickedly twisted patterns, and then eerily drop dead out of the sky. Sickly rain falls in horrible torrents, and oozes across everything it hits, dirty brown, like fresh motor oil. Clouds brew so large that they seem destined to topple over on mankind. And the people are acting strange, too. Running out in the roads, standing and staring creepily, breaking into to people’s cars and houses…
But then our hero wakes up. Just a dream. Just a dream. Why then does his arm still hurt? Why is he coughing up blood? Why can’t he shake the notion that he needs to construct a bigger and more secure storm shelter. He loses his job, and nearly his wife and daughter. Everyone is convinced he is losing his mind, much like his schizophrenic mother, and even he too begins to doubt himself. And so do we. Yet his feelings and premonitions persist. He is completely consumed with this obsession to build, to protect, to save. He’s doing it for his family, but they can’t understand. The film pulls us brilliantly along, with its hook anchored deeply in our gut, to the chilling final scene.
Atmosphere is important here, and so incredibly powerful. (And I don’t just mean the atmosphere that is producing the ominous weather). I’m talking about the sound, the camera movements (or wonderfully placed lack thereof), the actors’ choices, and the arresting visuals. You may walk away from this film and be tempted to call it a horror film, I know my twisted, knotted stomach would certainly agree. But truthfully, this masterful exercise in suspense, tension, dread, and paranoia bravely treads new waters, distancing itself from any genre placement. The filmmakers wisely chose to cut scenes right before they became cliche, or to dwell on them until they broke through a cliche and emerged successfully on the other side. The side where great films stand proudly. Like this one.
The direction, storytelling, script, editing, sound, visuals, and acting are all top-notch! Michael Shannon is brilliant and deserves recognition for this, as well as the wonderful Jessica Chastain, who I swear has been in every great film this year. Add this one to her list of greats.
Rated R for some language.
Running Time: 120 Minutes.
Released in theatres: November 10th, 2011.