Review of Jeff Nichols' Take Shelter, starring Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain.
Director Jeff Nichols and star Michael Shannon reunite for powerful end-of-world drama TAKE SHELTER
The partnership of filmmaker Jeff Nichols and actor Michael Shannon, responsible for the powerful, warring families drama Shotgun Stories, returns with an even better movie, the tense, end-of-the-world fantasy Take Shelter. Quick comparisons to the famous director/leading man team of Scorsese and De Niro are silly simply because Nichols and Shannon do not have enough work under their belts yet. Still, simply considering the comparison hints at the standout work Nichols and Shannon do together and how special Take Shelter turns out to be.
Curtis LaForche (Shannon) lives in a rural Northwestern Ohio town with his pretty wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain) and their six-year-old, hearing impaired daughter Hannah.
LaForche works hard in the construction trade to provide a comfortable middle-class lifestyle for his family and all seems well until he starts dreaming regularly of dark clouds bringing about the apocalypse or the rapture or simply the end-of-the-world.
LaForche keeps his nightmares to himself but calms his growing fears by building a tornado shelter in his backyard.
As his marriage strains and his friends and neighbors question his actions, LaForche wonders if his dreams are real or signs of mental illness.
He soon finds the answers in a climax that's thoroughly surprising.
Shannon, fantastic in The Runaways as music promoter Kim Fowley and powerful in Revolutionary Road in just a pair of brief scenes, comes dramatically alive in Take Shelter.
In his most complex role to date, Shannon portrays a family man both steadfast in his beliefs and unbalanced, both brave and increasingly afraid.
Shannon appears in Machine Gun Preacher as the best friend to Gerard Butler's title character as well as the new season of the HBO series Boardwalk Empire but Take Shelter is his spotlight role this year.
Jessica Chastain complements Shannon as the worrisome wife and Kathy Baker shines in a supporting role as Curtis' mentally ill mother.
While its performances are key, Nichols and cameraman Adam Stone bring the independent drama Take Shelter an epic feel thanks to their great use of the flat Northwestern Ohio landscape and its wide-open spaces.
Dark clouds and lightning strikes accent the simmering tension as Nichols builds to the film's climax with a few select bursts of special effects.
Like the parallel world drama Another Earth, which played cinemas earlier this summer, Take Shelter is a subtle fantasy thriller that builds wonder mostly through performances instead of elaborate digital effects.
Of course, Nichols understands a filmmaker doesn't necessarily need elaborate special effects when the incredible Michael Shannon is at the center of one's movie.
Genre/s: Drama Thriller
Release Date/s: January 2011 (Sundance Film Festival), October 7, 2011 (Showtimes & Tickets)
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Official Site: Official Site for Take Shelter
CAST and CREW FOR Take Shelter
Starring: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Tova Stewart, Shea Whigham, Katy Mixon, Natasha Randall, Ron Kennard, Scott Knisley, Robert Longstreet
Directed By: Jeff Nichols
Written By: Jeff Nichols
Produced By: Tyler Davidson, Sophia Lin
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Running Time: 120 minutes
M.P.A.A. Rating: Rated R for some language