Take Shelter – Heavy rain or crazy brain?

If you’ve seen the excellent Boardwalk Empire then you will probably be familiar with Michael Shannon. His performances in that, the award-winning adaptation of Revolutionary Road and a multitude of other films have more than demonstrated his outstanding talent, and he can be seen as the villain General Zod in the new Superman mega-budget film Man of Steel next year.

He has made great moves in his career, choosing roles that offer a genuine challenge and real test of talent. His decision to take on the role of Curtis LaForche in Jeff Nichols’ modestly-budgeted Take Shelter proved another masterstroke.

Set in Ohio, Take Shelter sees local family man LaForche develop an increasingly disturbing paranoia regarding storms. The intensity of his apocalyptic dreams begin to cause a rift in his family, and he starts focusing all his efforts on building an über-bomb shelter outside their home.

The fact that his mother was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at his present age does not bode well, and as family, friends and employer all raise concerns regarding his peculiar behaviour, his dream drive his actions, and he stands firm on his belief that a storm of biblical proportions is heading their way.

Michael Shannon is at his compelling best, slowly descending into madness as his sleepy town discards his warnings and questions his behaviour. The possibility of a real storm being on the way in toyed with, and the ending should have you pretty stunned to say the least.

Whilst almost every scene features the subtle brilliance of Shannon, a lot should be said about the supporting cast. Shea Whigham is great in his minor role as LaForche’s work colleague who tries to support him but ends up getting the brunt of his friend’s irrational behaviour. Jessica Chastain is also excellent as LaForche’s wife, and her dedication to her husband, even as he appears to be losing his grip on reality, adds key emotional grounding that he desperately needs.

It is low budget, by Hollywood’s standards, but there are some beautiful effects, and the sweeping landscape of Ohio works perfectly for some of those terrifying images lurking in LaForche’s mind.

Take Shelter is one of those films that got very little publicity, a limited theatrical release and almost no advertising budget, but, as more people see it, the film will get the public recognition it deserves.

Storming performances all round, with an intriguing twist towards the end.

9/10

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