Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Movie Review: "Take Shelter" by Alex Schopp

Thanks for checking out my movie review of Jeff Nichols' "Take Shelter". I realize that this isn't the newest movie out there, but I'm just now getting to it. I've been looking forward to it for quite some time and after all of the wait, the movie definitely did not disappoint.

The film centers around a normal, everyday family man, Curtis, played brilliantly by Michael Shannon. For all intents and purposes, his life is going pretty well. He'd recently become a manager at his construction job, he has a beautiful and loving wife, played here by Jessica Chastain, and a young daughter who, while she is deaf, treatment is on the horizon and she remains in good spirits.

Things are going well until he starts having these intense dreams - but not just your everyday dreams, more like premonitions or feelings, and of an upcoming apocalyptic-type event.



In these vivid hallucinations, every single one of them starts with the onset of a terrible storm. The sky gets dark, the rain is thick and brown, and everyone else around him in the dream - whether it his wife, friend or even dog - goes mad. The feelings he's getting from these feel real; like he's being given some sort of sign or warning. These feelings turn into paranoia and of course none of his acts can be explained by anything more than this is what I saw in a dream. All of this is happening by the way around the fact that his mother happened to develop a form of schizophrenia around the same age he is now, which he is very much aware of. And that's probably the biggest dilemma in the film. You know he's getting these reoccurring signs and he's trying to do what he thinks is right and what can save his family, but you also know that mental illness is there and it could so easily be that. Eventually, the turmoil of this all starts tearing apart his world and he's left with almost nothing still fighting for what he believes to be true. So this all builds and builds until the movie's final couple of scenes where the doors are blown off and the truth is finally revealed.


There are a couple of great aspects to this film, but none other can be mentioned before noting Shannon's perfect portrayal of a man on the brink of insanity. He toes the line perfectly as a man questioning what he feels is right and what he still logically knows shouldn't be. He is such a wonderful husband and father and you can see these visions he's getting start to pull him away from reality and really strain these relationships in his life. And what I loved about this character was how much I wanted to root for him. Throughout the movie I genuinely didn't know where it would eventually lead and I hoped so hard that what he was seeing would end up being true only so it wouldn't end up being this mental disease and me left watching the destruction of this man and his family. It truly made my stomach sink thinking about the fact that I may very well be watching that exact thing. So it was odd that I found myself rooting for the apocalypse, but it was still better - at least for this man - than the alternative.


With this very ominous and ambiguous story line, the tone and the music pair with it perfectly. Throughout the entire film there is an extreme sense of tension. It isn't dramatic, just very subtle. But that subtlety never quits and over the course of the film it eats and eats away at you, almost pecking at your sanity, much like what our main character is dealing with. The film is slow-moving, but at a constant pace, and at one that you can appreciate more after you're done with it.


So overall, this film hit very strongly with me. It's complex and thought-provoking. The progression of this character is so subtle but still pushed just enough over the edge that you constantly feel at unease. I'm not sure there was another character in a movie released in 2011 that I felt more compassion and hope for than this one.


If you haven't seen this film yet, I highly recommend it as soon as you get the chance. Definitely one of the great dramas of the past year.