Taking a look into the mind of someone that’s losing it makes for the perfect nightmare. Take Shelter, written and directed by Jeff Nichols, is about an everyday construction worker that’s having apocalyptic visions of an epic storm coming, leading him to go to any lengths to build a shelter to survive. The film stars Michael Shannon, in the lead role, Jessica Chastain and Shea Whigham.
Director Nichols paces the film just right, as the subtle script maps out the crumbling mind of Curtis, as he spirals down into the visions of chaos the near future may bring. The tension builds up as he falls into realistic dreams about his family and surroundings, like his dog taking a bite of his arm or a yellow substance falling from the sky. It never reaches the unsettling factor of the best David Lynch films, but it has an effective eerie sensation of its own. The audience is thrust into the perspective of Curtis, and we’re wondering all along whether his visions are authentic or not, making for a captivating, nerve-racking experience.
Michael Shannon, as Curtis, starts off as an everyday man and he plays it well, learning sign-language for his daughter and making small-talk with his construction workers, but his psychological breakdown in it’s entirety is powerful. Shannon’s humility as Curtis is gripping, as he’s dealing with a condition that runs in his family. Although Curtis is aware that he may be going insane, the deeper he gets into his apocalyptic visions the more committed he is to believing what he foresees and the performance becomes electric, as if he’s mirroring the storm that he envisions. Although Jessica Chastain does a wonderful job, it’s the Michael Shannon show, as he gives a performance that is undoubtedly award-worthy.
Many of us wonder about the signs we notice, what they mean and whether or not we may be in a moment of losing ourselves. Take Shelter takes that relative feeling and makes it real. Are Curtis’ visions a sign for a chaotic future or is he creating the chaos already simply by believing in the visions? Curtis is desperate for an answer, as he silently unravels inside from simply dealing with the unknown.
There isn’t too much to complain about with this film, but some may believe that the film has nothing to offer beyond presenting a psychological terror. For others, it may move at too slow a crawl to be interesting. There are also many films that focus on the madness of a person, and this may seem a little similar to those in the past.
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