DVD Review – Take Shelter

“Listen up, there’s a storm coming, like nothing you’ve ever seen, and not a one of you is prepared for it!” So screams Michael Shannon‘s Curtis shortly before the third act of Jeff Nichols‘ powerful psychological drama Take Shelter. He’s right, we aren’t prepared for the storms that are the film and his mighty performance. Both are like the best kind of storms – slowly building up from almost silence, escalating the sense of unease that something big is on its way and that you can’t escape it, before reaching a crescendo that will take your breath away.

The film opens with trees waving in the wind, as Curtis looks out over some disturbing weather that seems to be heading his way. It begins to rain a thick, oil-like substance, before cutting away to him having a shower. It’s a powerful, engaging opening, establishing a mood pervaded by the feeling that something isn’t right from the very first frame. The rest of the film follows Curtis as these visions of an impending storm get more intense, subjecting him to ridicule from locals and estrangement from his devoted wife Sam (a magnificent Jessica Chastain). It builds up to a finale that… well it’s impossible to say without ruining one of the best endings in recent years but needless to say it contains two of the most atmospheric, dramatic and powerful scenes of 2011. As a combination of acting, cinematography and sound it is nigh on unrivalled in its intensity.

Such a sheer impact in the finale is thanks largely to Michael Shannon, whose quiet, pained performance provides an emotional core to the film that is just too good to stand a chance at awards ceremonies. Framed against jaw dropping, wide-angled vistas that best show off Nichols’ storm FX, Shannon’s Curtis is a man who is struggling to come to terms with events he doesn’t understand, a single human lost in something a whole lot bigger than he is. He’s an enigmatic, commanding presence and he owns the film from start to finish. Take Shelter is worth watching for that alone.

The main issue that Take Shelter faces is that when viewed at home and not on the big screen, the intensity is reduced slightly. In the cinema, you can appreciate the full force of the eerie, dramatic score, the heart-pounding sound mix and the breathtaking visuals. On a smaller screen the overall effect is lessened, so watch it on the biggest, loudest screen you can find. None of this truly detracts, however, from one of the most unique and involving American films in years. It’s stunning.

Extras: A short but interesting Behind The Scenes doc, that is too slight to leave any impact but does answer how they managed to do all the floating furniture. There’s also a couple of deleted scenes that would have fitted well in the film but would have tipped it over the edge of 2 hours making it feel a whole lot longer. The DVD is also notable for bizarrely rubbish graphics on the welcome menu. Inessential, as extras go.

Take Shelter is released on DVD on Monday, March 19.

About The Author


Nat (or Nathanael as he calls himself when he wants to sound a bit classier) is a student based in Edinburgh who watches far too many animated films for a guy his age. He even has a blog. dedicated to the subject. When he's not doing that, he's the film editor of The Journal, Edinburgh and a committed member of King's Church Edinburgh. He likes Terrence Malick far, far too much.

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