Movie review: Michael Shannon shines in ‘Take Shelter'
If Michael Shannon is making a career out of convincingly portraying mentally unbalanced characters, he may have painted his masterpiece in the powerful “Take Shelter.”
Having earned an Oscar nomination as the psychologically troubled neighbor’s son in “Revolutionary Road,” and stolen scenes as the overzealous Treasury agent on the HBO series “Boardwalk Empire,” the ever intense actor now stirs an emotional tempest as Curtis LaForche, a working-class family man tortured by visions both real and imagined that seem to portend an apocalyptic climatological disaster — or his impending loss of sanity.
Curtis lives in a small Ohio town with his wife, Samantha (Jessica Chastain), and 6-year-old daughter, Hannah (Tova Stewart), who is deaf. He makes a modest living as a crew chief for a sand-mining operation, while Samantha supplements their income as a part-time seamstress selling handmade creations at a weekend flea market. The LaForches struggle to pay for Hannah’s health care and special education, but Curtis and Samantha are devoted to each other and to their little girl and they lead a reasonably happy family life.
Then, paranoia creeps in.
The opening scene finds Curtis standing in his driveway watching black-and-purple thunderheads building high in the sky — not an uncommon sight in the Ohio Valley, until his face and hands are pelted with raindrops discolored a dirty yellow. It’s unclear if this initial sequence is dream or reality, but it soon becomes obvious that Curtis’ sleep has lately been wracked with terrifying nightmares filled with dark and violent storms that threaten to sweep his family away. On some nights the terror is compounded by sinister, faceless figures bent on snatching his little girl from his grasp.
In what seems to be waking daylight, he witnesses such disturbing sights as massive flocks of birds making odd shifting patterns in the sky.
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