Sunday, 12 February 2012

2011 films: #9


Directed by Jeff Nichols

But Michael Shannon is just so good at playing these restless, disturbed characters. He is brilliant as Protestant policeman Nelson Van Alden in Boardwalk Empire, he was wicked and sensational in 2008’s Revolutionary Road, and he absolutely nails it here as a possessed husband and father anticipating an apocalyptic storm coming up. Take Shelter would have been a worthy film even without him, but Shannon certainly takes it to a whole new level.

There’s not much going on in Take Shelter. Jeff Nichols (it’s his third feature) favours long, depressing, atmospheric shots that drag you in, bit by bit. Curtis LaForche is having these horrifying dreams: his own dog attacks him, his little daughter gets abducted, some people try to break into his house. Also, there are all these visions: of an upcoming storm of such power that he absolutely has to do something to protect his family; his wife (Jessica Chastain – every bit as brilliant as she is in The Tree Of Life) and his little deaf daughter. He starts building a shelter – in the process becoming even more haunted by his dreams and visions. Problems start piling on top of each: family tension; loss of best friend, money, job; worsening mental condition. It all keeps building up to a point when the suspense becomes almost unbearable, and a real storm is the only thing you actually wish – for Curtis and for his family.

The 2-hour film may seem too slow-burning and overlong, but the goods Nichols and Shannon deliver are worthy of any slight crudeness in the plot. The shelter scenes are definitely among the most dramatic and intensely impressive pieces of filmmaking I’ve seen the whole year. 

Take Shelter is a convincing and totally believable tale of paranoia that can come and get any of us. We are not insured, and the powerful final scene, with Curtis’ wife looking at her hand (the way her husband had done early in the film), is case in point. It’s not paranoia. It’s insecure, paranoid times.

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