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Premonition or Lost of Sanity?
claudio_carvalho12 January 2013
The family man and construction worker Curtis (Michael Shannon) is happily married with Samantha (Jessica Chastain) and they have a beloved deaf daughter, Hannah (Tova Stewart). Curtis works with his friend Dewart (Shea Whigham) in his team and his mother Sarah (Kathy Baker) has been interned in a clinic since she was thirty years old with paranoid schizophrenia.

Out of the blue, Curtis has nightmares and visions of an apocalyptic storm and he becomes obsessed to build a well equipped storm shelter for his family and him in his backyard. Curtis spends the family savings and gets a loan from the bank to prepare the shelter. His obsession affects his work and his relationship with the locals and Curtis loses his job. Does Curtis have a premonition or is he losing his sanity?

"Take Shelter" is an original drama developed in slow pace with magnificent performances. The screenplay is very well written and despite the running time of 120 minutes, the movie keeps the attention of the viewer until the very last ironic scene. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "O Abrigo" ("The Shelter)
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Slow moving but completely worth it!
KnightsofNi116 November 2011
It seems that art films come in all shapes and sizes these days. If you look hard enough you'll find small independent art films within any genre. Take Shelter is a film you will find amongst dramatic thrillers, and it is definitely one you should seek out. It stars Michael Shannon as Curtis, a middle class family man working on the pipeline in Ohio. He leads a capable life where he must cope with his monetary issues as well as his deaf daughter. But he makes the most of it and lives a life of relative ease and compassion for his family. However, things become complicated when he starts seeing apocalyptic visions of a terrible storm he believes is on its way. The dreams and visions make his life very difficult and it becomes increasingly more stressful. Curtis must fight a battle within himself as he tries to figure out if these visions are meaningful or if he is just going crazy, as well as with his family and friends who become more disconnected from him as his sanity seems to deteriorate before their eyes. Take Shelter is a harrowing, dramatic, and slow building film that will surely amaze you once it is all over.

Take Shelter is a film that moves so slowly and builds so dramatically that one begins to wonder if we're every getting to the end. It's an incredibly quiet and sincerely somber film. We spend almost the entire movie honing in on Michael Shannon's powerful facial expressions and the deep thought going into the story. It progresses so slowly with a build up that pushes its way through molasses.

I'll admit that I was getting worried about this film not being as good as I expected it to be. I was afraid it might not live up to my expectations and that the payoff wouldn't be worth the crawling build up. But one you reach the end you will be incredibly satisfied. The payoff is incredible. I couldn't have asked for a better ending. It could not have been executed more precisely. It plays to something bigger than what you could have ever expected from this fantastic film. Just as my mind began to slip away from Take Shelter it ended with such a deep and deafening bang that my eyes flew open to realize the incredible film I had just sat through.

Take Shelter might not look like much at first, but it turns out to be a tremendous film. It's smart, engaging, fascinating, and brutally sincere. This is a must see film for 2011. Depending on your attention span you may want to give up about an hour and a half in, but if you stick around for the end you will be very satisfied. I guarantee it.
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Is anyone seeing this?
jadeitejewel12 December 2011
I'm going to try to be restrained in my praise of this film, but it's going to be hard, because I think it's about as close to perfect film-making as I've ever seen. I generally only write reviews for movies I've really loved, or really hated, and this movie I really loved.

This is a masterpiece.

I don't know where to begin, really. Leaving the cinema, I felt as though I'd had some kind of accident - a little as if I was in shock. I had a very strong physical reaction to this movie, in tandem with my emotional response, and in many scenes I felt my heart racing. This is powerful material and has been delivered with great skill. The pacing is perfect, moving slowly and quietly toward not one but several emotional climaxes, each greater than the last, allowing the audience to enter Curtis' world and share his emotions. The cinematography was beautiful, elegant, and achingly frightening at times; the dialogue was so real it hurt, and the soundtrack sinister and intense. Michael Shannon should win something for this role - he is Curtis completely and it's a complex and deeply sympathetic portrayal of the confusion of a good man, a complicated portrait of a man trying to BE a good man, in the face of his own fear. From the very beginning, the atmosphere is unsettled, and some of the dream sequences are heart-stoppingly frightening. The story is multi-layered, working with ideas of family, mental illness, responsibility, fear, the current feeling of the-end-is-nigh that everyone senses - when Curtis said, 'Is anyone seeing this?' I almost cried for him.

I have thought very hard about this film since I saw it two days ago and I simply cannot fault anything about it, not one thing. I know I'm going to see it many times. It left me shaken and moved and I cannot wait to see more from this writer/director. Hands down the movie of the century, so far.
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Intelligent, nicely shot film with great lead from Shannon
Manton2911 August 2011
Take Shelter is an intelligent, thought provoking, nicely shot film featuring an excellent performance by Michael Shannon (an Oscar nomination, surely?), who was also great in director Nichols' previous/first film, Shotgun Stories. The film explores the line between fear and paranoia, or objectivity and subjectivity, as it's protagonist - a blue-collar family man of few words - wrestles with apocalyptic dreams and visions of a strange, possibly supernatural storm, responding to them as best he can as both literal warnings AND possible signs of mental illness. The film has a brooding, at times Hitchcockian atmosphere and a very timely feel to it (think financial and environmental disasters). Set in a rural community, we have plenty of lovely wide shots of the land- and sky-scape (also a strong element of Shotgun Stories) with some added CGI on the latter for the dream/visions. Shannon's performance constitutes at least 50% of this films worth but the rest of the cast are good too. It's a slow mover and, at around two hours and fifteen minutes, perhaps a bit too long. My wife and I did have a few criticisms after watching it (at the Sydney Film Festival), but I wouldn't want to discourage anyone from seeing this film, which will no doubt be a hot topic and bring Nichols deserved recognition when it goes on general release (September 30 2011 in US)
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I still whisper
CountZero31326 November 2011
Take Shelter is a brooding, psychological thriller that does a wonderful job of generating foreboding and unease, while hinting at bigger thematic questions.

Curtis is in construction, a steady guy in a steady job taking care of his family. His mate Dewart tells him, kindly and a little enviously, that he has a good life. That comment comes just as nightmares creep into the daytime for Curtis and the pressures of the possible descent of mental illness, and impending catastrophe, seep into his being. He makes the decision to tell no one but medical professionals. He needs help. But that does not mean his fears are unfounded.

Michael Shannon is superb as mad-or-is-he? Curtis. When he gives voice to his darkest fears in a very public forum, he is the definition of unhinged. Jessica Chastain plays his put-upon wife Samantha, and gets to test her range in a nightmare sequence where she is tempted by a breadknife and the sight of her husband's exposed neck. The look on her face had me pushing back in my seat.

The film opens with big, brooding questions. Is Curtis somehow psychic? Is the approaching doom related to their daughter's illness? Does the ever-present threat of economic ruin somehow inform these impending cataclysmic events? Horror film tropes are employed in the nightmare sequences, as Curtis wakes up just as he is attacked. This becomes slightly predictable at the third dream, and the film sags slightly in the second act. The two-hours plus running time is a tad flabby. But Shannon is commanding, the cinematography eerily beautiful, and the ending deliciously straightforward and ambiguous.

We live in uncertain times. Those who carry on blindly and trust it will be okay may be the maddest of us all. Take Shelter shows one man unravelling, and resonates with all our contemporary worries. Highly recommended.
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Review for Take Shelter
emilysforster6 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Fear is the driving force for most of humanity, whether we choose to admit it or not. We fear financial distress, health problems, losing the people we love, and even bad weather. Fear grips our ability to function properly, to mentally process right and wrong, and to keep hold of the things we cherish most. Fear is the ring-leader in our circus of life. Take Shelter is an exposition of how fear can rule and ruin our lives. In this film, Curtis, played by Michael Shannon, succumbs to his greatest fear of "the storm" that is coming. Curtis begins dreaming of a horrific storm that not only takes his life but the lives of those he loves. This storm is almost depicted as an end-times, natural disaster. Curtis' dream becomes all-consuming for him as it starts impacting not only his sleep, but his life during the day. It is the fear of the dream becoming a reality that drives Curtis over the edge. Because of this, his job, finances, relationships, and marriage are all affected. This film is so much more than just the average apocalyptic, fear-fest. Take Shelter also portrays the commitment and faithfulness of marriage during a time of extreme doubt and confusion. It is beautifully portrayed how and why Samantha (Curtis' wife) stays so committed to her husband, even after he has given her plenty of reasons to leave. In a culture where over 40% of marriages end in divorce, this film speaks profoundly against that percentage. It is a refreshing experience to see the storms of marriage overcome by the vow of commitment. This film could quite possibly stir up a new statistic…and I think that would do the world some good.
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Challenging but supremely suspenseful character-driven drama
Movie_Muse_Reviews3 November 2011
When done right, few tales are more riveting than a person's descent into madness. Alfred Hitchcock proved this time and time again and Jeff Nichols reinforces it in "Take Shelter," a film likely to have been lauded by the master of suspense himself. Anchored by the performances of Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain, "Shelter" broods and festers but ultimately thrives on the brink between buildup and utter chaos.

Shannon, far from a household name but a favorite of cinephiles since his head-turning supporting role in "Revolutionary Road," stars as Curtis, a construction worker and father living in a rural town with his wife, Sam (Chastain), and their young daughter, Hannah (Tova Stewart). Their daughter has developed extreme hearing loss and Curtis' job provides them the benefits necessary to afford cochlear implants, but Curtis' recent slew of horrifically real nightmares seems to be the real issue here.

In his dreams, Curtis experiences premonitions of a near-apocalyptic storm that includes odd bird flight formations, motor-oil-like rain, and twisters, and appears to make everyone that shows up in his dreams eerily violent from his dog to complete strangers. The resulting paranoia and occasional physical side affects leads Curtis to seek medical attention, but also to start renovating the storm cellar in his backyard should his visions come true.

The question of whether Curtis is a prophet of sorts or just mentally disturbed drives the film — not much else does. Nichols tells this story largely through a series of character snapshots depicting Curtis riding the ups and downs caused by these nightmares. A few key moments boil the story to a point, namely a riveting scene when Curtis loses it a social luncheon, but the pensive script withholds from us straight through the end like a well-trained indie film.

As we go deeper and deeper with Curtis — and eventually Samantha and Curtis' best friend/co-worker Dewart (Shea Whigham) — we do learn some key details about Curtis' medical history that shed light on the situation, but even in the midst of fact, Nichols never gives us the satisfaction of arriving at any concrete conclusion about his predicament.

With the weight of an immensely introverted character dealing with a mental struggle placed squarely on his shoulders, Shannon proves why you'll only see him with more and more frequency in the future. He makes sure we care about what happens to Curtis, but beyond that he slips back and forth between deserving sympathy and deserving skepticism. He is not simply some Jobian character to whom bad things are happening, and this makes his challenge all the more challenging for the viewer. Credit as well to Nichols for crafting a protagonist far from the norm.

The winner of 2011′s most ubiquitous actress award, Chastain, gets the more alpha-type role instead. She's the good-hearted, open and loving type driven entirely by logic and unafraid of confrontation. Many will identify more with Samantha as a result, which adds a layer of complexity to the film to say the least.

"Take Shelter" offers compelling character-driven suspense, though at times it will try your patience. If you can chalk that up to quintessential indie filmmaking, then by all means do and enjoy this complex and challenging character portrait all the more for it. However, the real thrill of this type of film is that at any moment the bottom might drop out on the entire story (aka the $%&+ might hit the proverbial tornado); the difference between liking that and loving it is accepting when it doesn't.

~Steven C

Check out my site, moviemusereviews.com
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A perfect storm of a movie, so take shelter and watch this film.
ironhorse_iv18 May 2013
Warning: Spoilers
A very good creepy psychological thriller. Reminds me of the Shining (1980) mixed with the Bible story Noah's Ark. Very accurate comparison. Great film, keeps you hanging by a thread with a feeling of uncertainty. Curtis LaForche (Michael Shannon) had a normal life with his wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain) and six-year-old deaf daughter Hannah. Until one day, he been having chilling nightmares about an oncoming apocalyptic storm that will end up killing his family. Those nightmares are some very terrifying and haunting scenes. I felt the one with him driving in the rain was the scariest. Second one is the birds dropping like flies. The nightmares continue to happen, as Curtis sees it as a sign that he must build a storm shelter. The only problem is money is tight, due to Hannah's health care and special needs education. He try to build it anyways, resulting in strain on his marriage and tension within the community that thinks Curtis is crazy. He starts to question himself, is he trying to protect his family from the storm, or from himself? The acting in the movie are very good. Michael Shannon did a great job. You can see it in his performance, as he fears the unknown, but yet trying really hard to stand up to his fears. Near the end he was also convinced that he was going crazy, but still in doubt. Jessica Chastain is astonishing. She acted beautifully and totally made me feel her pain as the character even though I've never been in her situation or in that kind of relationship. Totally convincing as an actress. The special effects and lighting were both good though as well as his psychological development. The musical score fits the mood perfectly. Beautifully crafted, like every single shot was given careful thought and planning by the director Jeff Nichols. I love the scene with the weird weather patterns. The movie reminded me of the movie, Melancholia (2011). Both characters were dealing with so called "mental conditions" that no one else could understand or believe, both had a feeling of impending doom. Both were excellent movies. In my opinion, I don't think building a tornado shelter is that out there crazy. It's not he was forcing them to live in a cave or in a mine for the rest of their lives. He wasn't forcing his family, but trying to protect them. The town people act like they never heard of bad storms in Ohio. There are always new reports of really bad storms hitting Ohio each year. Here are the faults of the film. The film is depressing. Some people might hate the ending of the film as it doesn't solve anything. There is no conclusion to the film. With the climax of the movie, it was sort of for shock value and not really need to progress the plot. The tone of the film is intensely ominous and I was very satisfied with the ending which came as a revelation to the characters and the viewers. Never have I seen an ending that leaves an impression like that. Incredible. Make you wondered if it was just another dream or real life. Overall: watch it to find out. I recommend it to anyone!
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A magnificent sleeper
StevePulaski17 February 2012
Take Shelter is one of the most enriching and well made apocalyptic films I've seen since The Book of Eli. Not only does the art direction perfectly and naturally blend itself with the story, but the subtle and remarkable work of Michael Shannon and the slow, but intricate directing by Jeff Nichols work wonders for the pacing and the final outcome.

There's a grand difference between a story that takes forever to develop for a reason, and a story that takes forever to develop just because. Take Shelter lets its characters work their way into becoming recognizable human beings one step at a time. It's not one of those films that begins to get interesting during the second half because everything suddenly picks up. It's a film that starts out interesting because we are greeted with characters that have humanistic problems, and we are left contemplating the same characters who still occupy problems. It's a genius anomaly of filmmaking, and it's taken with great care here.

Another film that had that same sort of motto was Alexander Payne's The Descendants. Again, it followed the idea of letting its characters develop at a human-like pace before throwing in real climatic elements. Rarely do screenwriters want to create characters that slowly evolve into almost real characters. Most are too busy to jump right into "the good stuff." The story revolves around Curtis LaForche (Shannon), a Ohio construction worker living with his wife (Chastain) and their deaf daughter. Their house is on a wide stretch of land below a vast chunk of open sky. Curtis begins having very surreal and haunting nightmares about a forthcoming storm that has dark, ominous clouds and loud, rip-roaring thunder. In each of his dreams, something hurts him physically or mentally. In one, his own dog attacks him and he can almost feel the pain upon waking up.

Curtis seeks help from multiple doctors, while at the same time, he is trying to shield his dreams from his wife. Jessica Chastain, who has played a supporting role in several films in 2011, is pitch perfect. It's typical for films to sort of blacklist family members that are victim to a crisis caused by their spouse, son, etc. In Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, the film completely missed its chance to give Sandra Bullock a fantastic performance as the mother. Instead they traded it for more shots of Thomas Horn's autistic character running around aimlessly in New York. Chastain slowly evolves into a true character, compliments of the screenplay. It's nice that the film tries to, not only formulate characters, but showcase their reaction and response to the main events as well.

Michael Shannon is terrific. Simply terrific. He plays the role of a delusional man, unable to decipher dreams from reality very well. He slowly goes insane, without ever being too comical, unbelievable, or over the top. Having a delusional character go over the top sometimes works if you have a capable, sophisticated actor, take Nicolas Cage in Vampire's Kiss, who will bring justice to the role. If Shannon tried to go the Nicolas Cage route in Take Shelter, the film would've derailed faster than the storm coming in.

Why Take Shelter works so unrealistically well is because it forms sequences of forthcoming dread that can't be ignored. The art direction is some of the best I've seen this year, along with Another Earth (but that didn't succeed in storytelling this well). It also works coherently and wonderfully because Shannon is such a capable actor, always perfectly pulling off the tall, eerie man with pure force. I'll be damned if Take Shelter wasn't the most unsettling movie experiences in the last few years.

Starring: Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain. Directed by: Jeff Nichols.
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Essential Viewing for our Times
JoshuaDysart29 October 2011
I hear it so much now. Our national discourse is rich with portent. "It's going to get worse before it gets better", "Something horrible is coming, you'll see", "Soon there will be riots". I'm told these things at conventions and while talking to my neighbors and at breakfast with my mother's old friends. Now Jeff Nichols takes an exhausted phrase in storytelling, ("There's a storm coming") and crafts out of it the movie of the moment. A dark, symbolic mapping of the last five years of the middle-class American experience that's bursting at the mental and financial seams. I have yet to see a finer artistic expression of the current existential crises we face. Michael Shannon is the Noah of our hour, plagued with calamitous visions and barely bearing up under the weight of constant anxiety. In fact, the whole endeavor is buried in quiet distress and prescience. And when the movie finally finds the heart to redeem it's long suffering protagonist, it is through the worst of all possible outcomes. Essential viewing for our times.
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The real Sundance winner!
szulc-adam5 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Take Shelter could be easily renamed to something like Anxieties of living in the 21st Century Western Country. It showcases a rich pallet of phobias, from fear of financial instability, job loss, to anxiety about upcoming environmental apocalypse. Curtis (flawlessly played by Michael Shannon) begins having dreams and visions of bad things happening to him and his family and so he decides to build a huge shelter in his backyard where they can all seek refuge in case any of his dreams were to come true. But following his instincts comes at a price – he loses his job, takes out unstable loan from a bank and destroys his deaf daughter's only chance to undergo a surgery to restore her hearing. The dreams drive Curtis into insanity as he mirrors his behaviour with what once happened to his mother, a victim of schizophrenia.

The moment Curtis admits to himself and to others that he might be going insane, the apocalypse does arrive and so everyone else is forced to agree that something bad was on its way all along. Take Shelter is a very contemporary drama, which would not have been made, let's say, ten years ago. The problems the film presents are mostly influenced by the recession, political divide in nowadays America and environmental problems caused by global warming. The director Jeff Nichols finds a perfect balance between building up the multitude of his main character's anxieties and presenting Curtis's struggle in a believable way. He escapes preaching about the presented issues and makes the sole existence of the problems uncertain up until the very last moment. What is most admirable though is that Nichols avoids religious aspects of his apocalypse and keeps it very close to life, making forces of nature the most vengeful and destructive.

Take Shelter was a rare jewel among the films presented at Sundance. It was beautifully executed (besides the outstanding performances from the cast, music and pictures are also note-worthy) and felt fresh and exciting.
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This film deserves your attention!
chaaa26 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
From the opening moments of this dark, dreamy tale it is clear that we are in for something quite extraordinary. Jeff Nichols' Take Shelter begins with a nightmare and continues as such even after our protagonist Curtis LaForche wakes up. Curtis's nightmare comes in the form of a storm. Ominous clouds roll towards him, black and imposing and spitting greasy, yellow rain. As Curtis panics and goes to get his daughter to safety, he is attacked by the beloved family dog and just as the dog is about to tear his arm off he wakes up. This opening sequence, indicative of the rest of the film, is terrifying, beautiful and full of awe at nature's power. When Curtis wakes up, his arm hurts from where the dog attacked him in his dream but there is no wound. As a result, Curtis has come to distrust the loyal dog around his deaf daughter. When the dreams continue, and start to come in the form of hallucinations, Curtis must decide whether he is a prophet or a lunatic. There is a history of mental illness in Curtis' family and he is terrified that he is starting to lose his grip on reality. However, he takes a "better safe than sorry" approach and begins to obsessively build a storm shelter so that he might keep his family safe if a storm does come. The bulk of the film looks at Curtis' declining mental health. Is he slipping further into psychosis or is he driving himself insane with paranoia. His descent into madness is terrifying to watch and while the film never really quite decides whether he is a prophet or a madman it keeps its feet firmly planted in reality and never loses sight of the true intention of the film, to watch a man as he disintegrates. There is something very Cronenbergian about the crisis of masculinity going on in Take Shelter and the violent way in which it manifests itself. Curtis is a kind, loving husband and father but his paranoia, his fears for his family and his fears for his own sanity drive him to some very erratic behaviour that might have disastrous results for his family, storm or no storm. The relationship between Curtis and his wife and daughter is realistic and Jessica Chastain's earthy beauty compliments the character's strength, trust, intelligence and warmth just perfectly. As they struggle to keep their marriage together despite Curtis's many misadventures, one can feel her shock that something that was once so strong could be taken from her so cruelly. Take Shelter is a beautiful film. It is a lyrical film and it is a poetic film. It is not necessarily a film that provides answers but it is not ever trying to riddle you. The script is tight, pitch-perfect and nicely paced suggesting that Jeff Nichols is as skilled as a writer as he is a director. Shot with unbelievable beauty by lenser Adam Stone, the film looks and feels profoundly alluring and is a pleasure to behold throughout. However, the real heart of the film film rests on the shoulders of one person, Michael Shannon, who is superb here as the desperate Curtis. He is cuddly enough to be sympathetic but giant enough to be terrifying. His performance is a towering achievement and, in my eyes, cements him as one of the most interesting actors working today. This is the kind of performance that rarely comes around. Awards season will be colourful for Michael Shannon if there is any justice in the world. Part family drama, part disaster movie, part psychological thriller and part horror, this truly unique film must be seen on the big screen if at all possible and I can only implore people to make the effort to go out and give this film your money. Take Shelter is a low-budget (not that you can tell) masterpiece that truly deserves your attention. - Charlene Lydon
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Most disappointing ending of the year
sdb_197029 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
What I liked about this film was the subtlety. Until a gut-wrenching scene toward the end, Michael Shannon's performance is refreshingly restrained, devoid of the hysterics that often accompany films dealing with this subject matter. The socio-political aspects lurk well under the surface, and the screenwriter never hits the viewer over the head.

What I didn't like about the film was the ending. The film should have concluded with Curtis making the choice his mother could not - to put family above his psychology - and open the doors of the shelter, without either Curtis or the viewer knowing what happens next. But the film goes five minutes too long, pulling the rug out from under the viewer as Curtis' premonitions are ultimately validated. (If the Myrtle Beach sequence was intended to be "ambiguous," as some commentators suggest, it didn't work - unlike Curtis' other premonitions, his wife is the one who actually experiences the oily rain, which clearly suggests that the end of the world is in fact being experienced outside of Curtis' head.) I can appreciate an ending like that in the right movie (e.g., Bill Paxton's 'Frailty'). But THIS is not the right movie.
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Descent into madness or truth?
richt764 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This is what visionaries throughout our history have left us with: Are they mad, is it truth? The film portrays the fall into madness very well, the pacing, the intensity, the belief yet questioning, if you know of someone or have actually experienced mental illness you will immediately connect to this film, seeing as mental illness is the most common form of illness amongst us, chances are it'll evoke feelings of empathy, sympathy, fear. To actually experience the ever tightening realization that you or a loved one may be being lost to their own destruction due to mental illness is a terrifying journey beset with denial, anger, hope then darkness. This film captures that and some more, a nice hit the face at the end. It reminded a little of Mist, the same loss of hope only to be hit with a bucket of cold water, if we give up hope, if we refuse to try to see others truth, we lose our humanity. Great film.
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biglizardprods19 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
For 110 minutes "Take Shelter" is a gripping, dread inducing portrait of an average Joe going off the rails. At first there is a certain amount of ambiguity as to whether the main character's nightmares are apocalyptic premonitions or manifestations of creeping anxiety. The plain-spoken naturalism of the script, direction and performances -- especially Michael Shannon's believably unraveling lead -- stack up on the side of a mental breakdown. The details of his crack-up are painfully accurate and he even has a family history of schizophrenia.

Then, in the last few minutes, the movie becomes a highfalutin "Twilight Zone" episode, with one of those "gotcha" endings of the "It's a cookbook!" ilk. This would not be so bad if the buildup had not been so tonally different. As it is it's an utter betrayal of everything that preceded it and an insult to audiences' emotional investment in the characters.

"Take Shelter" is the latest and most egregious example of a distressing trend among filmmakers to take manifestly silly premises and invest them with dour gravity. Nolan, Shymalan, and Singer are the avatars of this style. They try to turn comic book and supermarket tabloid subjects into Ibsen, sucking out the fun as they inflate their stature. Rod Serling is surely rolling in his grave.
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Shotgun Prophecies
tieman648 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
"We are being asked to take even larger doses of a medicine that has already proved to be deadly and to undertake commitments that do not solve the problem, but only temporarily postpone the foretold death of our economy." - Hieronymos II

Jeff Nichols directs "Take Shelter". The plot? Michael Shannon plays Curtis, a Middle American breadwinner. Working class, blue collar, stoic and strong, Curtis works long hours for a sand-mining company. Free time is spent drinking, chilling with buddies, caring for his family and tending to various domestic duties. It's the American dream, and Curtis ably provides for his wife and child. "You're doing something right," his buddies tell him.

Look closer, though, and its clear that Curtis is finding it both increasingly difficult and stressful to provide for his family. Determined to preserve the illusion that his little family unit is not under daily assault, he then makes it his duty to hide from them the lengths to which he quietly suffers. Such pressures eventually lead to Curtis suffering a mental breakdown. He experiences a series of apocalyptic vision, most of which involve his loved ones being physically assaulted and/or threatened by thunderstorms. Curtis responds by becoming obsessively intent on building a tornado shelter, the underground room a manifestation of his feverish desire to lovingly cocoon his family; to provide them shelter.

The film ends with Curtis and his family on a beach. Here, for the first time in the film, Curtis' daughter and wife see the storm-clouds which Curtis has been envisioning throughout. This has confused some viewers, but Nichols' intentions are clear, the visions and thunderclouds representative of real life burdens which Curtis, like any good father, anticipates and protects his family from. They are the weights of the father, of the husband, of the lover, of the protector. In the final scene, mother and daughter thus acknowledge these burdens, acknowledge what Curtis has been shielding them from, and so lovingly shoulder some responsibility themselves.

The assaults levelled at Curtis' family come from all angles. The family has financial problems, Curtis' daughter needs an operation, Curtis has copious loans and bills to pay, his mother has a history of mental illness and Curtis is himself clearly suffering from an early onset of schizophrenia. On a broader level, Curtis' visions speak to both his private, domestic anxieties (the loss of his working arm, the loss of home furniture, the theft of his child echoing his mother's abandonment of him as a child etc), and a larger, national anxiety. For Curtis, something is becoming increasingly wrong with America. Families are under assault, things are getting worse, its no longer easy to shelter one's loved ones and all illusions of contentment seem over.

Unsurprisingly for a film written and released in the midst of a Global Financial Crisis (and escalating poverty, unemployment and homelessness levels in the US), financial concerns are voiced throughout. There is much talk of money, spending, loans, debts, "hard times" and several portentous images of gas meters clicking. The film's shots of agitated birds, oil stained rain and mining operations take Nichols' metaphors further; an environmental, financial, even apocalyptic catastrophe is coming. These are all heralded by massive storm clouds, viscous, oil-like rain, the angry funnels of tornadoes, and ominous clusters of birds, plague-like and seemingly torn from the Bible. These are the anxieties of a very specific age. The age of Fukushima, BP, Bear Stearns, Morgan Chase and Occupy, in which thousands are at the mercy of a diagnosis, pink slip or stock market fluctuations, and in which catastrophes both man-made and natural appear to seriously challenge American prospects for future prosperity. America's woken up to the Faustian conditions of American prosperity and suffering the insecurities engendered by late-capitalism.

Of course there have been many films like this released recently ("Company of Men", "Inside Job" etc). Consider too "Melancholia", which likewise explores mental illness against the backdrop of impending annihilation. Most of them, though, have a throughly smug subtext. An unwarranted bemusement, in which confused white characters are shocked that "things are now bad" and "the economy has turned on us". The implication is that "capitlaism is fine when it works for me", problems ignored so long as "they're affecting somebody else". We see hints of this with the climax of "Take Shelter", which arguably displays traces of typical American optimism: "solidarity will help us pull on through", "the storm will blow over", "we're all in this together", "the good times will return" etc etc. Of course American economic prosperity had more to do with other nations being crippled post WW2 than anything else, and this current economic downturn is just another depression predetermined by the inherent contradictions of capitalism. There is something condescending about Curtis' surprise and something dangerous about the family's optimism; capitalism itself runs on psychoses, optimism and quasi-religious faith.

"Shelter" does one thing very well. People have always applied psychological terms to economics (depressions, down turns, animal spirits etc) – our economic system is essentially a giant dopamine engine - but then refuse to acknowledge the linkages between mental illness and capitalism itself. In "Shelter", though, social environment and schizophrenia are explicitly, causally linked. The demands of Curtis' environment makes him totally nuts, and Curtis' Mom is herself given a speech in which her schizophrenia is linked to financial and social problems. Today the rise of schizophrenia and psychosis-like experiences in urban and minority populations supports such a stance; genes alone don't account for psychosis, and purely neurological models don't explain all available data on schizophrenia.

Aesthetically the film's powerful, aside from two cheesy endings (in a cellar and on a beach) that reek of M. Night Shyamalan. Interestingly, the film manages to belong to the Southern Gothic genre despite being set in the Midwestern state of Ohio. Nichol's was born and raised in Arkansas, so perhaps Southern literature pumps through his veins.

8.5/10 - See Steve Kloves' "Flesh and Bone".
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Laakbaar18 April 2012
"Take Shelter" transports you to the world of Curtis and Samantha, a blue-collar couple with a deaf daughter. They live in rural Ohio. Curtis is an average, taciturn, down-to-earth man who supports his family by doing manual labour in the oil industry.

As the movie progresses, we see that Curtis is having frightening, unusually realistic dreams. These are not ordinary nightmares and they concern him greatly. He tries to cope with them as best as he can, but after a while he comes to realise they are a portent of some unknown disaster.

Curtis quietly does what he feels he needs to do to relieve his anxiety about this. Essentially, he starts getting ready for the disaster. Really ready. He can't hide all this for long though, so soon this problem overwhelms him and his family. His wife is shocked that he's spending money needed to help their deaf daughter.

Through it all we wonder how much Samantha can put up with. She's a no-nonsense woman, but she seems to love Curtis. And of course we wonder whether he's right. Is something big really going to happen? Or is it just a mental breakdown of some kind? (Like the one his mother had...) Most of us have, at one point or another, been vaguely anxious about what might happen in the future. But this movie takes us expertly to "dread", as if it were a place on the map. Something bad is going to happen. Dread is the opposite of hope really.

The sense of place and character development in this film are superb. The acting is also superb. The pace of the movie is slow, but that didn't bother me for some reason. Nor is there much plot development. Man has strange dreams. Man gets ready for the apocalypse. Family tries to cope. These themes reminded me of the madness of Richard Dreyfus in Close Encouters.
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Guard Your Dreams and Visions
ferguson-625 October 2011
Greetings again from the darkness. What a beautiful piece of filmmaking that up-and-coming writer/director Jeff Nichols (Shotgun Stories) delivers. Not only will the story grab you and hold tightly, but Michael Shannon's performance will stun your senses. All of that from a film with very few special effects and a story based in a quiet, rural Ohio town? Yes.

Shannon (Boardwalk Empire, Revolutionary Road) plays Curtis, a quiet, hard-working husband and father. His friend and co-worker Dewart is played by Shea Whigham (also Boardwalk Empire). Early on, Dewart tells Curtis (with a touch of envy) that he has a good life, and that's about the best thing you can say about a man. It's about this time that all heck breaks loose for Curtis. He has apocalyptic dreams and visions that a world-changing storm is coming.

Being the strong man and protective head of the family that he is, Curtis tries to keep this quiet. However, his behavior grows more strange as he builds out a storm shelter in the backyard, gets rid of the family dog, and messes things up at work. Most of this wouldn't stand out for most people, but Curtis is the "normal" guy - the one who is consistent and predictable. At least he once was.

Curtis' wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain) and hearing impaired daughter Hannah (Tova Stewart) are supportive and try to give him space, but the family demands are such that a husband and wife confrontation is not long in the making. Turns out Curtis has a family history that drives him to dig a little deeper and even seek help.

After much emotional wrangling, there is a scene at a fundraising dinner where Curtis and Dewart have it out. Shannon's rant is one of the more powerful scenes you will ever see on film, and may have just clinched him an Oscar nomination.

This is a thought-provoking and emotional film that doesn't beat you over the head. Things unfold at a natural pace, in fact, it may be too slow for some viewers. The score is haunting and never once over-bearing as we battle through these stages with Curtis.

The ending may prove controversial, but I just smiled a very satisfied smile in appreciation of one beautiful film. There could be comparisons to Peter Weir's The Last Wave, or even The Coen Brothers' A Serious Man (sans humor), but to me, this one stands on its own as a story of love, support and strength.
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do not waste your time
sancheeks-email27 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
A waste of time. Gotta love fake reviews made to bump up the ratings. Slow beyond any patience to bare. The plot is old as chewed up last year steak. Gotta love idiots who supposedly do not have work/money but ride expensive trucks - surely a bad advertising for the trucks, but someone had to pay to produce such garbage. Apparently a family 'admired' by some of the 'brilliant' reviews is the one where nobody even talks to each other normally... but drinking beer scene was going longer than the time that would take to produce that beer, deliver and drink altogether. A father is portrayed like such a defendOr ... can not think about his daughter's health (has money for beer but no wish to flip burgers for surgery) but he's eager to build some super shelter out of a trashed shipping container (that he had to borrow money against the house!!) with cut walls (what for one would ask?) and no supplies WHATSOEVER - like free drinking water. Whoever wrote and directed such a garbage had no clue of a simple survival kit from Walmart :P. Like this loser father could not dig the trench for that junk shipping container himself, had to poop his beer buddy to almost loose his job. Reminds Jerry Springer show just miserably slow. Nothing but promoting idiocy and stupidity. The final scene is a 'masterpiece'. What a waste!
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The worst movie, the most boring movie, the worst story, the worst ending, ever.
pegahtv-132-97273119 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Let me be frank with you. I began to look at my watch just when only 40 minutes of the movie have passed, and then I began to look at it every 5 minutes to see how long yet it might take! I closed my eyes in parts of the movie, talked to my friend, checked on other guys in the cinema to see how bored they are, and counted every second till the movie finished.. It was extremely boring, and there was no story in it. This was the story: The man continues to see visions, wastes his money to make a shelter, and looses his job. Then the movie finishes showing a storm coming! No conclusion! either if the man had the illusions or not, the storm would have been coming! It could not have been more boring and more "no story to tell". I was wishing in every scene that it would finish, but it would not! It was insisting to continue, because the crew of the movie were in the illusion that they are making a good movie and they are entertaining! WRONG! they just wasted 2 hours of my life. I think this movie is in the genre of BULLSHIT, because I can't imagine any other genre for it.
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Excellent choice......if you're having trouble sleeping at night.
MaxieX11 May 2012
Warning: Spoilers
We couldn't stay awake to watch this. It's a very slow moving movie. We were very disappointed. The acting and photography were believable, not outstanding. The idea for the story could have made for a good movie but the way it was done was very boring. It wasn't the worst movie I ever saw and the quality was good, which is why I didn't only give it 1 star. At the rate the movie was going I was expecting to be dropped when he opened the bilco doors and that to be the end, that's as much as I expected from this movie. We were expecting to be disappointed at the rate it was going. And we were. We cannot relate to the 10 star ratings this movie has received from other reviewers. I had to voice our disappointment with the movie so that other IMDb users who may have similar tastes to us are forewarned before wasting their time viewing this movie. The constant droning music was irritating. I think I developed a headache just from that. This movie did not stimulate me in any way - thought, suspense, musically, nothing. Just a headache and frustration. Please understand this is simply our opinion and may differ from other IMDb users.
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You'll be disappointed even though you start it with low expectation.
yudi-hardeos15 April 2012
Warning: Spoilers
The first I saw the review, I guess the genre is a bit fantasy, not a pure thriller. But I try to believe that the movie is more to pure thriller than a fantasy crap, according to the movie info. However the movie remind me to such a "Donny Darko' or 'Knowing' type. But I avoid that assumption, and before watching the movie I try to convince myself that there must be something different, and there must be a real reason, a logic one, to explain about these hallucination things. I keep guessing how the ending comes to be, because related to the most helpful reviews at IMDb, our patience on a long and slow moving story will be paid by something invaluable in the end. But I really do not let that statement influences my mind, I don't want to get disappoint, so I keep my low expectation. I just hope there must be a logical explanation about what's going on in the main story. I hope there will not be an unexplained (in a logic way) because I want the movie keep stay on its track, which is a thriller one. I keep guessing. But after watching the very end of the story I don't get this invaluable thing, and I just think that the movie should be categorized as a fantasy one. Even though the acting was great, but I think the story is just too simple, it all can be described in only one sentence such as: "he ***, and the people think ***, but ***". (I don't want to write much spoiler). This one is overrated.
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jphopkins151929 April 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Very sad, special effects poor, character development poor, not chilling, scary, unless you are in second grade and never seen television before. I am more scared to go outside and breath air than watch this movie. It was a waste of time to view. Is the main character going mad or is it a glimpse of the future or is it an art school project, one will never know because the budget ran short and filming stopped. Save yourself time and money and watch a episode of Jersey Shore, it is definitely better written and developed than this flick. I sat though the movie in non-stop and have yet to figure out what I just did. As a side note, I love film, many different genres and I don't know what to call this one. The plot attempts to push the emotion button with the main characters daughter and his bond with her, but wait that actually has nothing to do with the movie. Then there is some mention of the characters mother and mental illness, but thats it folks, just a mention. Now he has nightmares or dreams, but is it possible schizophrenia or visions, uh no, just a mention again, no real development of the plot. Like I said, movie really stinks, but that is just my opinion.
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This is a leisurely paced film that tests our patience but its rewards are invaluable
Likes_Ninjas9029 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
On an open property, a construction worker named Curtis (Michael Shannon) is worried about the storm clouds looming over his land. He lives with his wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain) and their young daughter, who is deaf. Curtis starts suffering from reoccurring nightmares, where he and his daughter are being attacked. This is coupled with his increasingly irrational behaviour. He insists on locking his dog outside and is intent on building an outdoor shelter for his family to protect them from when he believes the storm will arise. This is despite how tight their money has become, particularly when they are expecting to pay for their daughter's operation. As Curtis investigates his own health and the medical history of his family, increasing pressure is placed on his relationships with his colleagues and also his wife. She continues to suffer because she cannot keep up with her increasingly distant and distracted husband.

A haunting atmosphere dominates this slow burning and methodically produced psycho-thriller. The motif of a storm, as a metaphor for the internal pressure of the mind, is not a new concept. It's a classic Shakespearean symbol, used to evoke physical and emotional tension for the characters. This is precisely the brand of horror that Take Shelter strives for, investing heavily in emotional paranoia, as well as post- 9/11 angst and uncertainty. What is most refreshing for a thriller of this kind is the restraint that director Jeff Nichols brings to the narrative. The start of the picture is the shakiest because it insists on taking us directly into the mind of the character. We're involved with two or three different dream sequences, where birds drop out of the sky, furniture is turned upside down and a dog bites Curtis. The latter is the most rattling because the lines between what is real and imagery are blurred. The other dreams are problematic because they feel like they belong to a separate picture, like a cheesy M. Night Shyamalan horror film. It weakens the realism and the belief in the psychology of the central character Curtis. Thankfully, Nichols lets the tension build slowly but visibly in his characters. His control reminds us that less is more and that the unknown is most frightening. There are scenes in Take Shelter that are achingly slow to unfold but the tension is efficiently realised because of the quality of the direction and the performances. In one late scene, Nichols relies solely on diegetic sound and the reverse camera shots of Curtis and Samantha during a conversation. The quietness here is more unnerving and riveting than anything happening outside of the house. This is a leisurely paced film that tests our patience but its rewards are invaluable.

One of other major testing factors in this film is our inaccessibility to the central character. Michael Shannon has face that rarely moves in expression and that alone ask us how much we are going to sympathise with him. The film improves immeasurably, almost to a breaking point of tension, as we become more involved with his irrationality and his fearful uncertainty. The script that Nichols wrote himself is smart because it knows how to raise the stakes for Curtis in an unstable climate but equally unreliable economy too. It's increasingly apparent in Shannon's performance that there's a distant void of a man, who is cold but seemingly ready to explode. Chastain is a perfect contrast because she's far more emotive and sympathetic. She understands the power of a close-up shot like few other actresses. As with The Tree of Life (2011), she shows us how brittle her character is, not through verbal explosiveness, but the most subtle and gentle of facial expressions. She brings so much feeling to this role. I hope she is rewarded early next year for her recent performances. Collectively, both of these tortured characters make us question whether it is better to survive and live in fear or to die peacefully. If this sounds daunting, there's a quietly funny scene where this is humorously visualised. After Curtis purchases several gas masks and an oxygen tank for his daughter, he makes his family sit with him in the shelter. The wide shot of the family mounted up together shows us their isolation but also the occasional absurdity of overt paranoia. Sometimes in the worst situations, all you can do is laugh. And this very rich thriller strikes some painful, nervous laughter. It's one of the most mesmerising thrillers released this year.
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Phil's short and sweet reviews
phil-f-walker11 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Pffph. Pretty rubbish. Frankly, it's entertaining in the sense that it kills an hour and a half with decent acting. I was waiting for the big apocalypse at the end. Turns out it was a storm. Like, a storm. You know, the normal garden variety storm. Lightening, and a tornado or two. Not sure what the hell this film was about, or why it has the ludicrous ratings it has been getting. I would have given it a 5 if the end had been a nuclear detonation. To be frank, I have nothing else to say about his movie, but IMDb insists that you write a minimum of ten lines, so I have to ramble some more. If you are still reading this you are probably the sort of person who will enjoy this excuse for a film.
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