Blu-ray Review: Take Shelter

Take Shelter Blu-ray boxSTUDIO: Sony | DIRECTOR: Jeff Nichols | CAST: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Shea Whigham, Katy Mixon
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 2/14/2012 | PRICE: DVD $30.99, Blu-ray $35.99
BONUSES: deleted scenes, commentary, featurette, Q&A
SPECS: R | 121 min. | Thriller | 2.35:1 aspect ratio | 5.1 DTS-HD audio | English, French subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Take ShelterApplauded at film festivals including Sundance, Toronto and Cannes, where it won the Critics Week Grand Prize, Take Shelter has great promise, but for this reviewer, didn’t totally live up to it.

Writer/director Jeff Nichols (Shotgun Stories) spins a tale of one man’s downward spiral after he starts having strange and horrific dreams and seeing potentially apocalyptic images — strange bird behavior, etc.

Michael Shannon (TV’s The Runaways) plays Curtis, a blue-collar worker, husband and father to a deaf daughter. There’s a lot at stake for him. The slightest deviation and his world could quickly fall apart. So, as you can imagine, when he jeopardizes his job and family by building a shelter on his property, tension abounds.

The performances are good across the board, from the tortured Shannon, to the always welcome Jessica Chastain (The Debt) as his wife and the solid Shea Whigham (TV’s Boardwalk Empire) as his friend.

Where the film falls down is its pacing. Nichols hands out tiny bits of story as if it’s on ration. In one scene, a man talks to Shannon’s Curtis about the affect his actions are having on his family. It could be a tense scene, but it’s diluted because it’s not until the scene is almost over that we find out the man is in Curtis’ family. Before that, instead of feeling for Curtis, we’re left wondering who this man is and why he has the right to speak up.

The movie also leaves many questions. Why is Curtis having these dreams and seeing these visions? What’s so special about him? If he believes the apocalypse is coming and is making this shelter to save his family, why isn’t he proclaiming this to try to save others in his community?

With none of these questions answered, Take Shelter more becomes a look at what might happen if a man started going mad, how his relationships would change and whether his wife would believe him. From that level, the film works better, but then, why bring the apocalypse into it?

Despite where it’s lacking, Take Shelter is worth a look if you like “quiet,” slow boiling movies with great performances. It’s a thought-provoking film with an ending that will either make you frustrated or lead into a further conversation.

The Blu-ray offers some nice special features, the best being a Q&A with Shannon and Whigham. The two actors comfortably joke about the production, their performances, their co-star Chastain and the answers to some of those questions (they’re for us to interpret). They tell us that a peanut butter sandwich saved the day for one shot.

Both are also interviewed for the behind-the-scenes featurette, along with Chastain and Nichols. Chastain reveals her admiration for Nichols, predicting he’s going to be an important filmmaker. Nichols explains that the inspiration for the script came from him feeling as though he was in a bubble of wonderful when he was a newly wed but that terrible things were going to happen to others.

The Blu-ray also has two deleted scenes that don’t add much and a commentary track with Shannon and Nichols, in which they reminisce about the movie’s filming.

 

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About S. Clark

Sam Clark is the former Managing Editor/Online Editor of Video Business magazine. With 19 years experience in journalism, 12 in the home entertainment industry, Sam has been hooked on movies on since she saw E.T. then stared into the sky waiting to meet her own friendly alien. Thanks to her husband’s shared love of movies, Sam reviews Blu-ray discs in a true home theater, with a 118-inch screen, projector and cushy recliners with cup holders.