Wednesday, November 30, 2011

MOVIE REVIEW: Take Shelter

Director: Jeff Nichols
Writer: Jeff Nichols


Michael Shannon ... Curtis
Jessica Chastain ... Samantha
Tova Stewart ... Hannah
Shea Whigham ... Dewart
Katy Mixon ... Nat
Natasha Randall ... Cammie
Ron Kennard ... Russell
Scott Knisley ... Lewis
Robert Longstreet ... Jim
Heather Caldwell ... Special Ed Teacher
Sheila Hullihen ... Woman in Road
John Kloock ... Man in Road
Marianna Alacchi ... Bargain Hunter
Jacque Jovic ... News Anchor
Bob Maines ... Walter Jacobs

So, what makes a really good thriller? In my opinion, the film's got to touch a nerve or two. In the case of Take Shelter, writer-director Jeff Nichols hits three big ones:

* Killer storms
* Ecological Disasters
* Inherited insanity

Curtis is a blue-collar construction worker who spends most of his days in a rural Ohio setting drilling holes. He's got a nice life, his lovely wife Samantha. The only hitch you see at first is his daughter, Hannah is in need of a cochlear transplant to help her hear.

Unfortunately, Curtis is having nightmares. The dreams started with black clouds on the horizon. When the inevitable rain comes, it's a viscous-looking substance like motor oil. With each night, he sees more horrors, including his trusted dog going crazy, and people turning on him.

He starts out seeking help from his physician with sleep. We see the first chink in his armor here where the doc mentions his mother. Back when Curtis was ten, his Mom developed paranoid schizophrenia and Curtis is worried. He doesn't remember enough of what took place to know if the same thing is happening to him.

Still, he acts on his dreams and takes out an ill-advised home loan to add on to his home's underground shelter. He's set aside food, gas masks, everything his family needs to survive.

And everyone thinks he's crazy...including him...

Is he or isn't he? Take Shelter reminds me very much of the Alfred Hitchcock films that scared the snot out of me when I was a kid, they're set in an ordinary setting with regular folks and they prey on the kinds of issues that have people waking up at night. While the film is slow in places, the payoff is well worth the patience you need for the set-up.

I saw this film with a couple of friends and we agreed Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain did exceptional work creating their characters. Shannon, in particular, reminded us of Christopher Walken, who can literally send chills up and down your spine with just the look in his eyes. While I'm not sure Take Shelter will win any accolades, I believe they are both people to be watching for in the future.

Rebecca Kyle, November 2011

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