Susan Granger's review of "Take Shelter"
Updated 11:58 am, Monday, November 7, 2011
This bizarre psychological thriller revolves around a man suffering from premonitions of disaster who systematically destroys his life when he starts to believe that the end of days in imminent. Curtis LaForche (Michael Shannon) seems like an ordinary Ohio construction worker. He's a loving husband to his devoted wife, Samantha (Jessica Chastain), and attentive father to his hearing-impaired six year-old daughter, Hannah (Tova Steward), who is awaiting a cochlear implant.
But then he begins to have delusions of doom: amid rustling leaves, ominous flocks of birds gather in strange formations in the sky and storm clouds hang heavy with horrifying portents of disaster. Usually laconic, he's plagued by persistent nightmares and hallucinations in which he's attacked by the family dog or nameless, faceless adversaries.
Intolerant and unable to communicate the source of his supernatural, apocalyptic visions and rising dread, he briefly considers evidence that he might be mentally ill, since his mother (Kathy Baker) was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when she was his age and has remained confined in an assisted-living facility ever since.
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Determined to save his family, Curtis takes out a risky bank loan to expand the subterranean storm shelter in back of his house, `borrowing' his employer's heavy equipment on a Saturday and enlisting the help of a dubious co-worker/friend (Shea Whigham). Eventually, he convinces his wife and daughter to move into that underground bunker for safety, seeking salvation from annihilation through isolation.
Writer/director Jeff Nichols ("Shotgun Stories"), working with cinematographer Adam Stone and Hydraulx for visual effects, makes the weather and topography of America's heartland an integral part of the apocalyptic family drama, arousing the free-floating anxiety and pervasive economic insecurity that dominates people's minds these days - and not only in Midwestern America.
Michael Shannon delivers an anguished, intensely realistic performance, complemented by another memorable turn from Jessica Chastain ("Tree of Life," "The Help") for whom 2011 has been a break-through year.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Take Shelter" is a relentlessly sinister 7, filled with an eerily ambiguous sense of unease.