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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Take Shelter


Starring: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Shea Whigham, Katy Mixon and Kathy Baker
Distributor: Second Sight
RRP: £24.99


Certificate: 15
Release Date: 03 September 2018

Curtis LaForche has a nice steady life with his wife and daughter, that is until he starts having visions. He sees a great storm coming filling the sky with an oil like rain, the end of his world where neighbour turns against neighbour. Convinced that the visions are true he starts work on a shelter for his family…

Take Shelter (2011. 2 hrs, 01 min, 17 sec) is a psychological drama written and directed by Jeff Nichols (Midnight Special (2016)). The film won a staggeringly deserved forty-two awards.

The movie is a slow burner with only the revelation about Curtis’s visions being resolved in the last minutes of the film. The film shows the audience the apocalyptic visions, unfortunately for Curtis none of the characters in the film are initially aware that he is having them. Curtis is not even sure that they are real, but as a father and husband is pushed to do something to save his family. Externally, his behaviour becomes increasingly bizarre as he obsessively prepares.

The film cleverly does little to answer the central question. Are we seeing an end of the world scenario or is Curtis nuts? Certainly, his behaviour could be viewed either way and even Curtis is not convinced that he is not losing the plot, especially when he starts to wet the bed. The film is less interested in showing the end of the world as it is on seeing how his personal revelation puts pressure on his relationships.

Michael Shannon plays Curtis. Probably better known for playing Zod in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and more recently as Captain Beatty in the remake of Fahrenheit 451 (2018), he has almost become synonymous with playing bad guys, so its good to see him cast in a completely different role.

Shannon convincingly portrays a man falling apart as the stress of his experience starts to take its toll. The veracity of his visions is put into further doubt when he visits his mother who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when she was the same age as Curtis is now. Shannon puts in a powerful performance always keeping the audience unsettled watching this man trying not to unravel in the face of the ending of his world, whether this means his external existence or his internal mental equilibrium.

Shannon is supported by a good cast, including Jessica Chastain who plays his wife Samantha and Tova Stewart who plays his deaf daughter, Hannah.

The Blu-ray has audio options for PCM uncompressed stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio, with optional English subtitles. The disc contains a good set of extras and the final product comes with limited edition packaging (2000 units) as well as a forty-page booklet.

Building the Shelter (27 min, 22 sec) has the director discussing the genesis of the film, as well as his thoughts on the final product.

The disc contains a whole slew of interview, many of them are highly recommended to watch. So, you get 2011 Ebertfest Q&A with Jeff Nichols and Michael Shannon (1 hr, 11 min, 39 sec) which contains a lot of interesting stuff and not just about the film. In the same vein is DP30 Interview with Jeff Nichols, Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain (31 min, 05 sec). There is also, 2012 Archive interview with Jeff Nichols (12 min, 49 sec) another with Michael Shannon (15 min, 05 sec).

Next up is an interview with Nichols at the Cannes Film Festival (10 min, 01 sec). There are three separate interviews from the Toronto Film Festival with Nichols (7 min, 29 sec), Shannon (8 min, 11 sec) and Chastain (9 min, 52 sec).

The Behind the Scenes feature (10 min, 09 sec) does what it says. Unlike most of the fluffy pieces which are little more than extended adverts for the film, this piece has something to say. Lastly you get a selection of deleted scenes (5 min, 37 sec) and the original trailer (2 min, 12 sec).

As a character driven film, this is near perfect and there is little to be critical of here. The main cast are convincing in their roles, the music is hauntingly evocative, and the direction takes what could feel like a slow story and roots you to the spot.


Charles Packer

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