Take Shelter is one of the best films of 2011 and I think critics coining it a classic are on target. Director Jeff Nichols has constructed a brilliant film. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called it “Unique and unforgettable”. It is —I watched it this weekend and am still running the film through my head. It’s not quite like any film I have ever seen. It’s totally original, with stark, creepy imagery and situations, with powerful performances by Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain in the lead roles. Having praised the film, I must admit some people will hate it. It’s not a supernatural thriller. There’s no boogeyman or apocalypse. No birds swarming out of open chasms from hell. This film is a character study about a man succumbing to the pressures of life. Or is it?

Take Shelter is set in the rural farmlands of Ohio. Curtis (Shannon) and wife Samantha (Chastain) struggle economically to provide for a young hearing-impaired daughter (Tova Stewart). Curtis works for a construction company overseeing drill rig operations and works with his buddy Dewart (Shea Whigham, who is also terrific). Curtis and Jessica belong to a local Lions Club, Jessica tries to save money by selling crafts, Dewart and Curtis drink beer and talk about life. Curtis and Jessica are loving parents. We also learn that Curtis’ mom is a paranoid schizophrenic living in assisted care. This sets the tone for the film. Is Curtis going mad?

After Curtis has several reoccurring nightmares of cyclonic storms with viscous rain like “light motor oil” he relentlessly focuses on refurbishing and building a storm shelter for the family, potentially sacrificing financial security and his marriage. Tensions build as Curtis, his wife and friends begin to doubt his sanity.

I’ve never heard of Michael Shannon, but I’ll remember him now (he’s slated as General Zod in the new Superman film 2013). He gives a riveting performance in Take Shelter. At this time (February 2012) the film is available only in Blu-ray.


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