365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About


Take Shelter (2011)

The most overlooked performance by a lead actor in 2011 was Michael Shannon's performance as the delusional Curtis LaForche in the Jeff Nichols (Shotgun Stories) bone chilling drama Take Shelter. Though Shannon's acting career began in 2001 and the first three movies he appeared in (Pearl Harbor, Vanilla Sky, and 8 Mile) each grossed over $100,000,000 at the box office, it wasn't until 2008 when he earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor after two jaw dropping scenes as a mentally unstable man in Revolutionary Road.

In Take Shelter, Shannon is at the top of his game as a husband and father of a six year old daughter named Hannah (Tova Stewart). Hannah is deaf and her healthcare and special needs education require time and money that Curtis and wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain - The Help, The Tree of Life). Though they make ends meet financially and do what they need to do to devote as much time to Hannah as possible, life is not easy. Curtis works as an on site manager for a contracting firm. His days are spent drilling test holes with co-worker and best friend Dewart (Shea Whigham -  Tigerland, All the Real Girls). His nights are spent either at a local pub or with his wife and daughter who loves very, very much. Curtis is a likable and respected man in the community so much so that Dewart says early on in the movie, "You have a good life, Curtis...I think that's the biggest compliment that you can give a man."

Curtis does have a good life. He has a steady job that he is good at. He has a loving relationship with his wife and a daughter he cherishes. He has a nice little house in rural Ohio. He even has a dog named Red that he loves and one that loves his entire family. He's living his own version of the American dream. But when Curtis begins having hallucinations and delusions that include disturbingly vivid nightmares of his family being hurt by both strangers and some of those closest to him as well as visions of an impeding apocalyptic storm with a motor-oil type rain falling from the sky, his life slowly begins changing for the worst. He begins altering his behaviors based on what happens in these delusions and hallucinations. They are so life like to Curtis that he is convinced they are a prediction of what is going to happen. Curtis fails to communicate effectively with his wife and, as a result, their relationship begins to suffer. While she is pinching pennies, he is out buying thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of material to build a storm shelter that he has convinced himself he is going to need.

I believe I've provided enough of a back story here  to hopefully get you interested in seeing this fantastic movie without giving too much else away. The unanswered question here is will these foreboding predictions prove to be true or is there something else affecting Curtis?

The direction in Take Shelter is fantastic. Nichols and Shannon teamed up in 2007 for the critically acclaimed Shotgun Stories. While Shotgun Stories is one of the best movies that you've never heard of, it doesn't compare to this follow up effort. This is also Michael Shannon's best performance to date (including Revolutionary Road). You can't take your eyes off of him as he struggles to come to grips with all that is happening around him. Chastain is wonderful as his devoted wife who continues to support and love him despite is increasingly erratic behavior. The movie is slow and methodical, but never boring or stale. Despite it's sometimes maddening slow pace, I was glued to the edge of my seat waiting for something to happen. For me the payoff was rewarding. It will not be for everybody and there will be plenty of people who will probably hate this movie as much as I hated The Tree of Life. I am fine with the pace of a movie being slow as long as I believe in what is going on. For me, that was the case with Take Shelter. With The Tree of Life, I was bored, I didn't know what was going on, and I felt like I was purposefully being tricked. It was, perhaps, the most miserable experience I've ever had at a movie theater (and I've seen plenty of bad movies in the theater). I wish I had seen Take Shelter in the theater because of its engrossing nature. I can only imagine how great it would have been to be on the big screen. I wish I Michael Shannon had received the Best Actor nomination over Gary Oldman for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. I'm not sure how Oldman captured that last nomination over Shannon or Leonardo DiCaprio for J. Edgar. But the Academy's disregard for young actors in a leading role is a different topic for a different day.

Plot 9/10
Character Development 10/10
Character Chemistry 10/10
Acting 10/10
Screenplay 9/10
Directing  10/10
Cinematography 9.5/10
Sound 9.5/10 (I soon won't forget the scene of the family waiting to leave the shelter)
Hook and Reel 9/10 (Hooked me, but it probably had a lot to do with me knowing a little something about the movie going in)
Universal Relevance 9/10 (You'll be more likely to agree after the movie than you might halfway through it)

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