Published on February 23rd, 2012 | by Jordan Petersen0
REVIEW: Take Shelter
Summary: The film transcends a series of hard questions by falling back on a greater answer —we can face anything if we stick with the people we love. Take Shelter is a revelation.
Take Shelter is about a man dealing with two apocalyptic threats. First, he is battling what are most likely episodes of schizophrenic hallucinations, and he knows it. He even takes the initiative to seek medical attention. But tied into that very problem is his sense that there is a “storm coming,” one as terrifying for its strangeness as for its magnitude. Whether both threats exist only in his mind is a question that haunts him, his family and the audience for the entire duration of the film.
Michael Shannon, who also starred in Jeff Nichols’ impressive directorial debut, Shotgun Stories, is in many ways a uniquely talented actor. His performances demand a new and more vital understanding of subtlety and stoicism, and he always delivers a quiet intensity that is silently explosive. In perhaps one of the more spectacular moments of his career, all that, however, turns into actual sound and fury during a scene that gives Paul Dano’s famous religious apoplexy in There Will Be Blood a run for its money.
The other performance heavyweight here is Jessica Chastain. Empowered by Jeff Nichols’ script, she provides a vision of true feminine strength that is rarely — if ever — portrayed in Western cinema. She is a titan of womanhood; of nurturing, unyielding commitment and character. The relationship between her and Shannon is painful and sublime. When all is said and done, that is what most strongly drives the narrative.
Given its somewhat peculiar and haunting premise, this film showcases some jarringly surreal sequences and images, many of which haunted me for weeks after I had left the theater. This, I believe, is what really elevated the film above the other strong releases of the year — along with the pertinence of those very images.
Because this is a film that matters. That people are afraid of the unknown is, of course, obvious. And it would be hard to argue that “there’s a storm comin’” is fresh territory. But, somehow, Nichols and Co. illustrated the sentiment so compellingly that I couldn’t help but feel a sense of awestruck dread from the beginning to the very end.
In a way, it comes off as eerily affirming. We so often hear, and we so often tell ourselves, that we are being paranoid when we catch ourselves considering the unknowable doom that surely awaits us all. This film ambitiously explored both ends of our psychology — the inner workings of our minds, and the outward manifestations of an almost certainly chaotic turn in “the world as we know it.” How long before the consequences of some of our society’s greatest follies catch up with us in ways we could never hope to understand?
Who knows? The film ultimately finds a way to transcend these disturbing questions by falling back on the answer that supersedes them: we can face anything if we can manage to stick with the people we love. Sure, it sounds hackneyed when I say it, but trust me, Take Shelter is a revelation of nearly Biblical proportions. ♦ ♦ ♦