Title: Take Shelter
Director: Jeff Nichols
Writer: Jeff Nichols
Starring: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain and Shea Whigham
Length: 120 mins
DVD Release Date: February 14, 2012
Genre: Drama, Thriller
It’s not the rare occurrence when I disagree with the film critic community. This isn’t done out of spite or anything like that. Rather, it stems from a lack of tolerance for pretentious “art films” and mundane Oscar-bait on my part. Take Shelter seemed it wasn’t going to be one of those cases, however. Thrillers are in my wheelhouse. Trailers for the movie seemed full of intrigue and plenty of mind-fucks. I was grossly mistaken, though, as Take Shelter proved to be anything but intriguing.
Take Shelter is writer/director Jeff Nichols’ sophomore project. The movie stars Michael Shannon as midwest family man Curtis. Life is good for he, his wife and daughter. They have even found funds for a cochlear implant for the deaf daughter. However, just as all seems well, Curtis begins having horrible nightmares. Ominous nightmares that seem to signify an impending disaster. Horrible storms, oil-like rain, swarms of bird and murderous people all fill dreams which instill Curtis with paranoia and fear, affecting him psychologically and even physically.
The kicker here, though, is that Curtis (nor we) knows whether these dreams are premonitions of impending danger or the early symptoms of schizophrenia, which plagued his mother when she was his age. So, Curtis, out of love for his family and fear for his own health, has no choice but to seek help, while simultaneously investing himself into building a storm shelter for the great storm of his nightmares.
Meanwhile, we’re subjected to one-and-a-half hours of the most tedious build-up I can recall at the moment. A slow-burn technique such as this would be fine if there was even a modicum of any real suspense. However, that suspense is quickly removed as the story seems to go in recycle mode, continually going through the exact same motions again and again and again, until you’re utterly fatigued by the redundancy of it all. By the time anything resembling intrigue happens, you’re so out of the story that you don’t even care. This is probably for the best, though, as the “climax” is, oddly enough, a rushed disappointment in itself.
Michael Shannon does a brilliant job of portraying this disturbed man, though. The quiet desperation Shannon exudes feels so natural that it lends well to the harrowing and unsettling situation this man is going through. His performance is the best thing about the movie. How he didn’t get a Oscar nomination is beyond me. All of the performances in Take Shelter feel so organic so as to make the movie feel that much more natural. Jessica Chastain plays Curtis’ wife well, delivering a natural and grounded performance as she struggles with her husband’s strange behavior while trying to keep her family’s life from falling apart.
The cinematography is another bright point in Take Shelter. With beautifully simplistic shots, combined with some nice digital effects, Take Shelter provides some definite artistic eye-candy which will momentarily have you in awe.
However, the beautiful cinematography or great acting aren’t enough to save the Take Shelter from its dull and tedious nature. Jeff Nichols merely manages to go on and on without saying a damn thing. And he does this for a painful two hours.
Ideally, about 30 minutes of the second act should have been scrapped to get rid of a lot of the redundancy, as Take Shelter greatly overstays its welcome. Even then, though, you’re left with a movie void of any real suspense which never really goes anywhere and results in a anti-climactic climax. Furthermore, the ambiguous final scene seems to nullify any type of substantial meaning the film attempted to establish.
Filed Under: Reviews