Apocalypse looms large in writer/director Jeff Nichols’s intimate tale of social, mental, and economic duress. The most inward-gazing of 2011's trilogy of apocalypse films, which also include Lars von Trier's "Melancholia" and Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life," "Take Shelter" is a moody psychological thriller of epic proportions.
Curtis LaForche (Michael Shannon) is a construction worker living in rural Ohio with his wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain) and young hearing-impaired daughter Hannah. Curtis reads a worst-case scenario into foreboding cloud formations he sees. He also suffers from terrifying nightmares, about a coming storm, which cause him to wet the bed. Torn over whether his family's history of mental illness has made its way into his brain — his mother is schizophrenic — Curtis seeks out counseling.
Michael Shannon is perfectly cast for his powerful ability to portray characters teetering on the brink of insanity. When Curtis takes out a loan from the bank that precludes his daughter's scheduled medical procedure to correct her hearing problem, the sense of Curtis’s desperation becomes palpable. He uses the funds to expand an underground storm shelter using a giant shipping container.
A carefully modulated study into the psychology of fear and premonition, “Take Shelter” captures a macro-micro snapshot of America’s post-9/11 zeitgeist at a moment when a decade of fear fatigue has left the country numb. When everyone is seeking shelter from economic, natural, and human-implemented disaster, no place is safe.
Rated R. 120 mins.
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