Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Take Shelter (2011)

Critically acclaimed but largely unheard of, Take Shelter is one of the best smaller films of last year.

From the opening shot of Curtis LaForche standing in an oil filled rain, Michael Shannon gives a phenomenal performance as a man plagued by apocalyptic visions. Curtis becomes the victim of vivid hallucinations and terrifying dreams that follow him through his waking and sleeping life. Shannon sculpts a masterpiece performance and shows us a man who is truly, deeply scared and even more embarrassed by his fear. As he tries to sweep his increasingly erratic actions away from friends and family he can't shake the nagging fear of his dreams and what is happening to him. Is he descending into a hell of mental illness or are his visions a warning of a coming storm?

Shannon's performance goes hand in hand with Jeff Nichols' direction and some spectacular special effects to create a real sense of dread from start to finish. Take Shelter isn't a scary film in the same way as a traditional horror film, because it's not one, but there is a constant undertone of unease and that this peaceful world could come crashing down in every scene. Whether it was the spectre of mental illness or the possibility of the storm ever coming, something ingrained in Take Shelter just had me tense throughout, in a good way. It's impossible to pin down why that is, but all the subtleties and different elements combine into a perfect storm or angst and fear for Curtis' safety, and his family's safety from him.

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