Take Shelter (Jeff Nichols, 2011)

What's it about? Curtis (Michael Shannon) is a devoted husband and father who starts to experience disturbing dreams and visions about an apocalyptic storm. His behaviour subsequently becomes erratic and obsessive, jeopardising his marriage, his health and his work. But is he mentally ill or are his dreams actually a premonition of some impending disaster?


Is it any good? Very good. You know that film Field of Dreams, where Kevin Costner becomes obssessed by his visions and it all ends happily with a heart-warming game of catch? Take Shelter is like the opposite of that; Field of Nightmares, if you like. There's a real sense of dread and foreboding in this film, which is built up and sustained quite superbly throughout. It is probably best described as a horror/thriller, but it steers commendably clear of those obvious BOO! moments, even though it features several dream sequences which naturally lend themselves to such things. Instead, it prefers to quietly build up a sense of unease and I genuinely felt on edge all the way through, and I mean that in a good way. Performance-wise, Jessica Chastain, starring in her 147th film of 2011, is excellent as Curtis' despairing wife. However, it's the storming performance from Shannon that sticks in the mind, as the ordinary guy who is all too aware that he might be having a mental breakdown, but who is still unable to stop his obsessive behaviour. As a result, we end up caring about their situation and that increases the tension as it moves to the climax. I was worried that it would struggle to find a resolution which wouldn't undermine the ambiguity of the story, but I think it managed to pull it off. Recommended.

I don't trust you. What do others think? Flying under the radar, but an impressive 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with special praise reserved for the performances and the slow-burn atmosphere of the film. Following this and his turn in TV's Boardwalk Empire, Shannon's distinctive features are set to become more recognisable as he takes on main villain duties as General Zod in the new re-boot of the Superman franchise, Man of Steel. Hopefully that will encourage more people to seek Take Shelter out.

Anything else I should know? I had to hide in a storm shelter once. Well, I say storm shelter, it was more like a tent. And when I say hide, I mean puke. Man, that was a great festival.

What does the Fonz think? Very atmospheric.





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