“There’s a storm coming and none of you are ready for it!”
The preceding line of dialogue has been brought to you by Michael Shannon’s entrancing, relentless performance as Curtis in Jeff Nichols’ mind-trip Take Shelter .
It’s rare that one man’s presence and paranoia can carry a film the way Shannon’s does Take Shelter .
Oh, many try. But that’s also an easy explanation for the startlingly high number of contrived and poorly-executed psycho-dramas that infiltrate cinemas on a seasonal basis.
The trick isn’t necessarily getting the audience to believe in the character’s psychosis. The trick, executed brilliantly here by Shannon, is to convince the audience that the character firmly believes in it himself.
Shannon’s conviction is what carries Take Shelter , and Nichols is able to pace and build the story around both Curtis as a character and the catastrophe he believes is imminent.
Shaken to the core by nightmarish visions, Curtis believes that the skies are set to open and take away anyone and anything that is unprepared for the coming havoc.
The very real consequences of his actions mount up as a result of the countless possibilities and disastrous ends presented to him through these visions. The mounting pressure leaves him little alternative as the storm (metaphorically and physically) approaches but to go all-in.
What results is an explosive resolution to one very slow-burning fuse.
It’s not a perfect film, but it is an exceptional performance by Shannon.
Nichols’ script, as well, helps Take Shelter build gradually but deliberately t a stunning conclusion. The story is internalized through Curtis’ visions, which become more essential to moving the plot than the reactions and opinions of those that surround him.
Once the ball is set in motion, the characters here are no more capable of slowing its momentum than the audience.
From the townspeople, to Curtis’ boss, to his wife – played by Jessica Chastain, who seems to have cornered this year’s market on silently concerned, yet waifishly appealing spouse roles ““ few are able to penetrate the locked doors to Curtis’ psychological struggle.
And when that momentum comes to a head, the only thing left for those left standing by and those watching is to take cover and prepare for what’s coming.
Whatever that happens to be.