Take Shelter (2011)

Why can’t people just accept that he has a dream!?! Well, a very effed up dream to say the least but still.

Curtis (Michael Shannon) believes strongly that a huge storm is approaching and will destroy everything on a massive level. Rain from the sky begins to look like motor oil, multiple tornadoes are forming, and huge flocks of birds begin to navigate in weird patterns. He also has a history of mental illness in his family and his visions may be from his paranoid schizophrenia.

The “crazy guy who sees things” premise has been done time and time before but there’s something different that writer/director Jeff Nichols brings to it. Maybe it’s just the fact that this guy is actually very good at everything he does. No, that’s exactly what it is.

The one thing that Nichols shows that he definitely is a force to be reckoned with in the next upcoming years. He does a great job with the direction here because the story has this sort of horror flick feel to it but even when all the freaky and scary stuff isn’t happening, he lets everything calm down in order to give us some very rich family drama. Nichols gives a lot of these dream sequences this dazzling look and feel that has you so taken aback by them that even though you do know that they are just hallucinations and not real, for some odd reason you start believing that they are despite what this story is telling you. The CG effects are pretty good, some better than others, but I’m just really impressed that they were able to make any type of huge storm look realistic, given the meager budget they have working with here.

The film’s script is also very well-done because it captures two things at once. You know that this guy is just having dreams and imagining stuff but after awhile, the sense of impending doom starts to take over and you can’t help but start to think that this guy is right after all and you’re just waiting along with him for it go down. You feel hooked right away and it doesn’t stop for the whole two hours that this film has you for, but it’s not just that which got me going. The whole family drama aspect of this film works greatly as well because its very subtle, quiet, and genuine. Everybody hear speaks like a normal person would and their reactions to this guy’s dreams and actions feels very real in the way that people wouldn’t just beat around the bush, they would get straight-up in the dude’s face and call him a loony. The characters all feel real here and even though I can’t say that I know anybody that would actually be as nutso to build a storm shelter himself for the apocalypse, I could say that if I did meet one, I would be pretty up-front about how crazy I think they are.

My only complaint with this film lies within the whole metaphor this film is trying to throw on by our faces. The whole idea that there is a storm approaching not just in real life but also in his head seemed a little obvious for me in the way that I just knew what this film was trying to say. It’s not that this ruins the film by any means necessary it’s just that once you get the hang of what this film is trying to say, it’s pretty much over-done.

The main reason as to why this flick does work though is because of the man they call Michael Shannon. Shannon is finally getting his first lead role as Curtis and he makes every single second work and count like no other. This guy looks nuts and has elements about him that would make him rather nuts but he’s just an ordinary working-class family man that is starting to dream some pretty scary things and it starts to take over his mind big-time. He never goes around yelling at people, preaching about how the apocalypse is coming, instead he just keeps it all to himself without ever letting anybody, even his wife, know what’s going really going on in his crazed mind. Shannon is perfect for this role because even as crazy as he may be going he never seems violent and never seems like the type of dude that would kill his family because a big old cloud in the sky told him to. He feels like a dude that loves his family but also has a lot going on in his mind that he shows very subtly only getting worse through time. Shannon doesn’t let loose until one part where he just can’t take it anymore and just lets you know how much power he has for a performance like this and even when it’s over, you can’t help thinking that this is truly a weird dude. Shannon deserved a nomination for this performance because he’s great and handles every scene perfectly but something also tells me that we will be seeing more of him in leading roles now.

Also, I think that Jessica Chastain will be proclaiming that 2011 was the greatest year of her life considering she has appeared in about 7 films last year, including this one, and she’s great in just about each and every single one of them. Chastain plays his wife, Samantha, and gives you this feeling that she really does love her husband and is trying her damn hardest to really connect with him and help him through this very rough time in both of their lives. It’s also great to see Shea Whigham working again considering the last time I saw him was when he got rocked by Paul Walker in ‘Fast & Furious’.

Consensus: Take Shelter is a powerhouse of a flick with arresting visuals, a perfect performance from Michael Shannon, and a direction and script from Mike Nichols that makes you feel the impending doom that could possibly happen, as well as feel the true emotions that run behind all of these characters motives.

9/10=Full Price!!


  1. Great Review. I have been wanting to see this for a while and unfortunately it never played at a theater near me. But at least I know it’s worth the buy when it comes to DVD on Feb. 14th. Can’t wait to see it.

  2. I wanted to see this one but missed it last year. It seems to me that Shannon also missed out on some awards nominations that he is deserving of for this film.

    nice review Dan. I look forward to checking this one out when I can.

  3. loved the whole movie except the ending and specifically the last shot. did anyone else have a problem with that ending? without giving too much away, the ending to “Take Shelter” felt like an answer to the question of whether or not this guy was crazy and didn’t like the answer.

  4. Great review, I loved the action scenes and agree with you on how it slowed down with the philosophical discussions. Also the misleading trailer. Keep it up us average joe’s gotta tell the real story.

  5. Nice review Dan, I have been itching to see this film for months. Shannon is super intense in Boardwalk Empire and the way you describe his performance in this film makes him sound even more impassioned. Whats your call on him not getting a nod for best actor?

  6. Nice review Dan, Finally got to check out this film this weekend. Thank you Red Box. Found the film to be extremely well acted with Shannon and Chastain playing off each other exceptionally well. This was a fairly complex film filled with allegory, metaphor and symbolism that will stick with you after a viewing.
    We currently have a post up discussing peoples various interpretations of the films conclusion and would love to hear any input you have about that final scene.

  7. Excellent review of a film I feel is getting overlooked. By the way, I said almost the same thing as you about the insane-guy-with-visions premise not being original, but being unique in this film because of how Nichols presented it. And like you, I expect we’ll be seeing Shannon in more lead roles, which is a great thing.

    I took a real deep dive on this film and tried to analyze the ambiguous ending:


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