Take Shelter (4 1/2 out of 5 Stars)
Directed and Written by: Jeff Nichols
Starring: Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain
In today's era people fear almost everything. With the economy tanking people have a fear of losing, well everything. Take Shelter starts with Curtis LaForche standing outside of his home while his wife cooks and his daughter is playing. In the distance Curtis sees storm clouds, and its start to rain a yellowish color, a signal of the end of days. This starts a cycle of paranoid acts, and dreams as Curtis struggles to keep his family afloat.
After a long day of work Curtis spends a night out at the bar with his co-worker and best friend Dewart. Dewart (Shea Whigham) starts talking about his own problems while the two drink and ends up saying "You got it good." The problem is Curtis has real issues like everyone else. Curtis supports his family while his wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain) stays at home to take care of Hannah (Tova Stewart) their six year old deaf daughter. Curtis's income and benefits are essential in helping his daughter get surgery for a cochlear implant.
Curtis's first dark dream involves his dog biting him, and after the dream he feels the pain of the bite as though dream were reality. Curtis starts to come undone as his dreams about having his family taken away from him, and as he continues to see a storm on the horizon. Curtis takes action in order to protect himself and his family from the darkness of his dreams and visions. Curtis starts building more to his bomb shelter using equipment from work. Curtis soon starts to alienate people through his actions and his world unravels as he tries to prevent it from doing such.
Writer/Director Jeff Nichols does an amazing job creating a world where reality and paranoia blend. Nichols shows two worlds, but the worlds start to blend together and Curtis appears to have a hard time distinguishing between what is real and what is not. The use of limited visual effects helps to keep the movie on a different level from most other films. While Nichols uses the elements of the storm and a flock of bird to symbolize a darker future.
Michael Shannon is brilliant in this film! Shannon's Curtis is a stand up guy, a family man, a friend, who starts to see things fall a part. Shannon slowly unhinges; he fears he is turning into his mother (Kathy Baker) who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when he was 10. Curtis visits her on his quest to determine whether he is actually crazy or the end of days is coming. Shannon is one talented actor, and so far has given one of the best performances i have seen throughout this entire year.
Jessica Chastain also gives a great understated performance as wife. Chastain has starred in two other movies I have seen this year, The Help and The Tree of Life. This woman has proved in a short time that she has the acting chops to go toe to toe with some heavy hitters, and in this film she gives her best performance of the year. Chastain's Samantha goes from happy homemaker to wrought wife desperately trying to help her husband and her family survive.
There is something spiritual and potentially biblical about this film. In a scene with Samantha's family, her father asks Curtis about his not attending Church. Curtis responds with a question "How was the service?" While I do not think the film was intentionally religious I do think the film mirrors a quest to feel at peace. Curtis paranoid state about his economic woes cause mental anguish. Together these elements create one stellar film.