Take Shelter

Directed By: Jeff Nichols

Starring: Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain

Watching a mental breakdown is like watching a train wreck in slow motion.  You get a front row seat for all the carnage and chaos that builds to a devastating climax.  That's why I love movies about crazy people.  You get a taste of what leads to their breakdowns and a better understanding of what makes them tick.  Jeff Nichols' Take Shelter is one such film.

Curtis LaForche (Michael Shannon) is a man afflicted by apocalyptic dreams involving a massive storm.  In his dreams, friends and loved ones frequently bring harm to him and his daughter Hannah (Tova Stewart).  He decides not to tell his wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain) about his nightly terrors.  As these vivid, horrific dreams drive him into a paranoiac frenzy, his life slowly deteriorates.  He's not so concerned about that though.  He just wants to build a shelter that can withstand the massive storm he believes is on the way.

Take Shelter is an intelligent film driven by unique visuals and strong performances from Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain.  Curtis' apocalyptic visions are brought to life in a vivid way in the film.  Director Jeff Nichols really does a great job with the creative visual effects in the film.  Whether Curtis has visions of vicious storms headed toward the LaForche home or some birds’ unusual flight patterns, Nichols makes sure that his audience sees these weird occurrences as clearly as Curtis does in his mind.  The special effects are very similar to other 2011 films such as The Tree of Life and Melancholia.

Michael Shannon delivers one hell of a performance as the tormented Curtis LaForche in Take Shelter.  He has the hardest job of all.  He's playing a crazy guy who’s continuously changing for better or worse.  Shannon has to capture the paranoia and fear associated with Curtis' mental breakdown and how he gradually loses it.  At the same time, he has to show a character that recognizes his mental deterioration and struggles to overcome it.  Curtis is a very complex nut and I applaud Shannon for an impressive performance.

2011 was a really great year for Jessica Chastain.  Having starred in The Help, The Tree of Life, and Take Shelter, she's definitely added some pretty solid films to her résumé and worked with quite a few actors this year.  Regrettably, she also starred in The Debt.  With Take Shelter though, she takes a part that could have easily been a bland supporting role and turns it into a strong performance that showcases her acting chops.  Playing Curtis' supportive wife Samantha could easily be a boring role that gives more of the same one-dimensional characters we see in virtually every movie.  Chastain, however, gives us a very nuanced character.  She imbues Samantha with both grace and strength.  She makes her a sensitive yet assertive wife that can do whatever she needs to do when the situation calls for it.

While I thoroughly enjoyed Take Shelter, there were times at which I felt that the film was a little sluggish.  Because of this, I had to grab a few wine coolers to finish off the movie.  Take Shelter gets a 0.03% rating.  This powerful psychological thriller is definitely one to check out if you have some spare time.