Flick Reviews: ‘Take Shelter’ (2011)

Take Shelter is a drama-thriller from 2011 starring Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain. The film’s story goes like this:

Plagued by a series of apocalyptic visions, a young husband and father questions whether to shelter his family from a coming storm, or from himself.

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Take Shelter is absolutely one hell of a masterpiece, and a sophomore effort from Jeff Nichols that blows his film debut out of the water completely. The film is basically Jeff Nichols’ take on terror and paranoia, influenced by Hitchock’s supreme brand of horror that never goes too extreme yet still accomplishes its job in scaring us off. Most of its greatness is owed to Michael Shannon who delivers a performance that is sure to startle and knock you off your feet all at the same time. But still, the film as a whole surely does the exact same thing.

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There is a certain fear projected onto Shannon’s face that is horrifyingly convincing all of the time in every scene, and it manipulates our feelings with his strangeness, leading us to believe that we are involved in all of this madness. His performance is a crazy train of psychological disturbances that you’d really want to get on board, and you’d be thankful for doing so. There are numerous scenes all throughout that really showcase his immense acting skills and most of them involve the insane portrayal of his character through his rendering of facial expressions. Michael Shannon does this for the rest of the film, and he manages to both toy with our feelings and disturb us with his alluring craziness.

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Shannon’s depiction of dread is so effective that even if he is blankly staring at something, we immediately get this feeling of impending doom that crawls very deep under our skin. It may sound petrifying enough, but watching what he does so impressively in the film gives justice to the former statement. There is even a particular scene in the film towards the end that just sums up the entirety of Shannon’s performance, and it is something that you’d want to see over and over again even if you get emotionally frightened by his violent utterance of words and the scary, paranoid look that he displays. The scene referred to is simply drenched in cinematic gold, and it is Shannon’s performance and Jeff Nichols’ writing that purely solidifies it. To jump to conclusions, it is easy to say but easier to agree with that Michael Shannon’s performance in Take Shelter is absolutely breathtaking. His berserk-acting is enough to keep you going through this film’s madness over and over again.

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If that sounded a little harsh if one were to speak how haunting the film really is, you have Jeff Nichols’ screenplay that embodies disaster and psychology – basically two things that makes this film as a whole. Nichols’ writing in Take Shelter gets your mind busy. Something special is always buried in beneath every scene.You might not notice the hidden treasures of the film’s message, but once you realize how much of a difference it makes for the film, you’d be astounded with writer/director Jeff Nichols’ thoughtfulness. It’s where Shannon derives his great portrayal from, and it where the film truly blows us away.  From every frame, there is something that will keep you thinking, and that is where some of its greatness comes from.  How the story unfolded is unique and definitely inventive, giving us a new perspective at hallucinatory illnesses/delusional anxiety in the backdrop of a disaster. But the film’s ingenious taste for the extraordinary doesn’t stop there.

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The story’s disaster/paranoia aspect is written with so many enigmas that guessing what would happen in the end becomes an emotionally straining task once we find out the real truth. The mixture of the narrative’s two main elements makes for a deep look into a man’s disturbed mind and altogether creates some harrowing imagery.Some of the imagery are so horribly intimidating that it ought to leave itself in your thoughts just as it lingers onto you. The moments created by Jeff Nichols’ nightmarish imagery plagues our minds easily and immediately as it gets flashed onscreen. The visuals he manufactures are straight out of a nightmare, but not in excess. They look fairly simple aesthetic-wise but with how Jeff Nichols executed them is shocking enough for the eyes to take in. But mostly in the sense of it looking beautifully chilling. If you come to think of it, the dream sequences are stunning in all of their entirety. Precisely for looking like they were assembled by Alfred Hitchock himself. For those minutes and so, we are truly spellbound with its combination of unearthly elegance and shock value and it is all thanks to Jeff Nichols admirably outstanding direction. His screenplay is a work of art itself, it is a view at delusional paranoia that could get both emotional and even unnerving at times. Both of those are perfectly captured onscreen and proves just how great of a film it truly is. The film’s ending in particular leaves you hanging onto it, and with its hypnotic allure, we savor how it emotionally haunts our psyche.

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Take Shelter is a film that differs from the norm, and proudly so as it has technically so much to boast with. It is perhaps a gem that shines brightly in Jeff Nichols’ filmography, and it is very deserving with everything that it has shown to us. Most particularly with Michael Shannon’s Oscar-worthy performance that you just couldn’t stop talking about long until the film has ended. This is already simply a classic that deserves to be crowned one. There is basically no reason whatsoever for it not to be called such. With all that, this really needs to be said and loudly too: Take Shelter is simply an enduring masterpiece of modern cinema that is marked with bizzarro brilliance all over it, and for that it should be recognized as one of the greatest.

Rating:

5

Meanwhile, Jeff Nichols’ latest sci-fi drama Midnight Special is now showing in select Philippine cinemas. See it in cinemas now!

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