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Take Shelter - Film Review

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by Sean (subscribe)
I'm a spottily employed journalist with a love of books and "genre" movies living in Brisbane. I have no blog as it's much too self-aggrandising.
Published November 1st 2011

Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road, Boardwalk Empire) plays family man Curtis.

Curtis has a wife, Samantha, (Jessica Chastain, The Help) who loves him and a cute-as-a-button daughter Hannah (Tova Stewart) who is deaf and waiting for a cochlear implant.

Curtis has a good life. Or so his friends tell him; he has a nice house, a well paying job in construction with great health insurance benefits for his daughter and a loving family.

But Curtis has a secret.

Curtis has been having dreams. Very bad dreams; or maybe visions: of a world-shattering storm that will bring death, destruction and chaos. These dreams don't just stop when he opens his eyes, he's started to see and hear the coming storm even though nobody else can.

Curtis hasn't been sleeping, he's missing work enough that his boss notices and he's developed an unhealthy obsession with improving and fortifying the family's storm shelter.

Are these dreams that so terrify him a product of a fracturing mind or are they visions of an apocalyptic storm coming to rain destruction down on mankind? The matter is complicated with the knowledge that Curtis's mother has been hospitalised for paranoid schizophrenia since she was about her son's age.

Pretty soon Curtis is spending money he doesn't have and obsessively building the storm shelter while burning any bridge necessary; be it social, financial or employment; to safeguard his family from what he sees coming.

Michael Shannon turns in a restrained and subtle performance as the blue collar man of few words is trying to hide his growing panic while knowing there's something bad coming just over the horizon. Shannon conveys Curtis's unease through the movement of his body and the look of dread in his eyes. He wants to warn people of the storm but he knows his family history means he's probably just sliding into insanity like his mother.

Honestly, I'll be surprised if Michael Shannon isn't nominated for an Oscar for this film. He's that good.

Jessica Chastain turns in a solid performance as the wife who is fighting to make ends meet and give Hannah a childhood while watching her husband being slowly torn apart by something he refuses to talk about. She tries and tries to hold them all together as the tension mounts and Curtis's dreams and visions become more detailed and violent.

Beautifully shot in the wide open spaces in the Midwest where the tornado is a constant threat, Take Shelter slowly but constantly ratchets up the tension and the sense of dread until Curtis and the audience with him is about to snap like a taut cable.

If there's one gripe to be had about the film, it is the ending which to me was totally unsatisfying. My opinion is second-time director Jeff Nichols could have halved or even left the final scene out completely and had a more satisfying ending. I won't go into details as that would spoil the surprise.

If you want to catch Take Shelter in Brisbane, it's being played as part of the 2011 Brisbane International Film Festival for the final time on Sunday November 6 at the Palace Barracks Cinema 4 at 1.30pm.

Take the chance to see this well directed and fantastically acted character study while you can. You won't be disappointed (except for maybe the ending).
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Why? A fantastically acted thriller on a Queensland big screen for possibly the last time.
When: Sunday, November 6, 1:30pm
Where: Palace Barracks Cinema 4
Cost: $16 Adult, $14 Concession
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