Saturday, November 12, 2011
(Dir. Jeff Nichols, 2011)
Ever since Michael Shannon stole REVOLUTIONARY ROAD out from under Leo DeCaprio and Kate Winslet a few years back, I've been waiting for the man to carry a movie as the lead. Here, he gets to do just that as a man tortured by apocalyptic visions.
Shannon plays a blue collar father in a small town in Ohio - so small that everybody knows each other - who continually sees ominous clouds, strange formations of frightened birds, and rain that looks like orange soda when it pours into his palm.
Nobody else sees this scary stuff so his wife (Jessica Chastain), best friend/co-worker (Shannon's Boardwalk Empire co-star Shea Whigham), and everybody else think Shannon is going crazy.
Shannon thinks he may be going insane too, as there is a history of mental illness in his family - Kathy Baker has a brief bit as his mother suffers from dementia.
Still, his awareness of his possibly delusionary state doesn't stop his from building a bomb shelter in his backyard.
There have been many stories about protagonists who may be crazy, or they may be on to something (that saying about paranoiacs being the people that know what's really going on comes to mind) - it's Twilight Zone 101.
I wish I could say that TAKE SHELTER brings something new to the table, but it doesn't. It's far from fully fleshed out, there's one too many fake-out nightmare scenes, and I don't think I took away what they wanted me to take away from the ending. I say I don't think so, because I really don't know what director Nichols (who also scripted the film) wanted folks to take away from it.
Chastain doesn't really have much to do as Shannon's wife except look worried - a part that resembles her role in THE TREE OF LIFE - but she brings a believable presence regardless.
It's Shannon's show though, and he owns the movie indeed. It's Oscar worthy work that's pretty much the sole reason to see this movie. His brow has never looked as furrowed before than in this excellent portrayal as a honest working man plagued by fear.
It's a performance that will stay with you for days.