I don’t care how many times I had to be corrected, every time someone had asked me if I’d seen Take Shelter, I thought it was about the goddamned Rolling Stones. I get it, their song was called “Gimme Shelter” and not “Take Shelter”, but I’m what some people would call “dumb” and I get the two things confused. I think the idea of a Rolling Stones movie also got me pretty angry, so it’s taken until now to watch this movie that I’d heard good things about. I had no idea the title was as literal as it was, considering it involved a guy building a shelter in his backyard. MOVIE TITLES ARE HARD, OKAY?! That’s what I’m trying to get at. You also shouldn’t judge a movie buy its name, because sometimes a relatively bland name could be a really engaging movie. There will be spoilers in this review, so the short review is that if you like slow-paced psychological thrillers with sci-fi elements that relies on the acting ability of the principal cast, then you should really check it out.
Here’s Michael Shannon doing his best impression of Bill Paxton in Twister.
Curtis (Michael Shannon) is a pretty average guy with a relatively normal life. He’s a construction worker and has a daughter with his wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain) and they all live in Texas, but Curtis is starting to have troubling dreams. These dreams always involve storms that rain abnormal liquids and this “rain” seems to be causing other people to lash out violently towards him and his family. These dreams become more and more real, and cause him to detach himself from people who are harming him in these dreams, regardless of whether or not they are his best friend or even his wife. These dreams start manifesting themselves in his reality, and he hears thunder or sees lightening when no one else reacts. Nervous about these dreams becoming more and more real, Curtis decides to build a storm shelter in his backyard to protect his family, and all his energy and focus on that shelter causes him to alienate the people that love him and even results in him losing his job. We also learn that his mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia and Curtis is nervous that he is just showing those symptoms. When a tornado warning goes off in the middle of the night, Curtis takes his family into the shelter he has prepared, but the next day when Samantha says the storm is over, he has a hard time knowing for certain whether or not to believe her. The film’s tension builds as we see Curtis struggling to overcome his doubts over what is real and what isn’t and when he opens the door, he sees that it really has stopped raining and he realizes he was wrong about that storm and agrees to go to a facility for help. Before getting that help, Curtis and his family go to a beach for a vacation and his daughter points out a large storm on the horizon. Samantha looks at what is raining down on her hand and sees that this storm is the one Curtis had been warning everyone about, she looks at Curtis in acknowledgement that he isn’t alone, and the movie ends.
And here’s Jessica Chastain doing her best impression of Bryce Dallas Howard. I think she does it better than Bryce does.
Despite the fact that there really isn’t that much stuff going on in the movie, it’s pretty impressive that the audience can be so compelled with just three or four actors. Looking back at the movies that Michael Shannon has been in, the only one I really remember was Bug, and even as one of the leads, I don’t really remember too much of his performance. All I really ever hear about his roles is how intense he is, and even though he really only had one or two outbursts of intensity in this movie, I can tell you I would NOT want this guy yelling at me. Maybe because I knew about his intensity I could kind of anticipate him freaking out at some point, but he was generally pretty subdued and calm in his demeanor and was still able to give a captivating performance as a blue-collar guy having doubts about his own sanity. As far as Jessica Chastain is concerned…I GET IT NOW, GUYS! I know she had a HUGE year in 2011 with all of the successful movies she was in, and the only one I saw was Tree of Life. I thought she did a good enough job, but wasn’t really blown away, but that’s probably because I was super fucking confused throughout most of that movie. Seeing her as a devoted, compassionate wife who had to decide between taking care of the man she loved and what he was going through while also having to make sure her daughter was taken care of really showed off her talents. And for those of you who says things like, “Oh yeah, that Jessica Chastain, what a HOTTIE,” well…I get that now, too. The two really played well off one another and considering there were only a few scenes involved any special effects or anything like that, I could even see this movie doing well as a play if you had strong enough actors.
Are there EVER any movies that show birds as being anything other than inherently evil? First is Hitchcock’s The Birds, then there’s March of the Penguins, AND NOW THIS! I must never meet those dickhead birds that are out there.
After dicking around online for a little bit, I was able to read some of writer/director Jeff Nichols‘s comments about the ambiguity of the ending. Did you guys know that the ending was ambiguous? I didn’t! Maybe it was because I had preconceived notions of the thematic elements of the movie that I had taken this “End of Days” storm literally and I didn’t really need to see what happened to the world after the storm. To summarize the what Nichols said about the ending was that it didn’t matter whether or not the storm ended up being real or what the end result of the storm was, but what mattered was that Curtis and Samantha had now embraced the storm for whatever that was and were ready and willing to face it together. This answer makes me then question the reality of the storm and if it really was happening or if it was a manifestation of the family’s acceptance of what Curtis was going through. Obviously by having his daughter and wife see and acknowledge the presence of the storm doesn’t mean that they too have become schizophrenic, but that whatever challenges the family will be facing, apocalyptic or mental illness in scale, they will all be facing it together. Has anyone else seen it? What did you guys think of the ending? Although this isn’t necessarily a movie I plan on watching again anytime soon, I’m glad I did, and I will be recommending it to others.
Wolfman Moon Scale