Take Shelter is a shattering, devastating work of American art, written and directed by the mega-talented Jeff Nichols (Shotgun Stories, Mud, the forthcoming Midnight Special), and it’s a picture that has, upon repeated viewings, revealed itself to be so much more than what I encountered upon my first screening. Michael Shannon again demonstrated that he is one of the best actors currently living, delivering a performance of intense, sometimes overwhelming power and emotion, portraying a psychologically fractured man (or is he?) who is convinced that the storm to end all storms is brewing, and that life as we know it is coming to an end. But what type of storm is he referring too? And just how important is it that he’s digging up his backyard to conceal a bomb shelter/safe house?
The cinematography takes some cues from Malick, but adds some textural grit to the aesthetic, with the entire visual style leaning towards heightened reality with touches of the surreal. Jessica Chastain was quietly fantastic as his skeptical but loving wife, and by the film’s poetic and haunting finale, you’ll be convinced that you just watched a transcendent piece of storytelling and filmmaking, the sort of effort that could only come from a truly original place, one that’s been carried out with vision and total control by a storyteller with something interesting and thought-provoking to discuss.
Review by Nick Clement