A lot of people are squawking about Michael Fassbender and Leonardo DiCaprio failing to receive Oscar nominations for Best Actor, as widely expected among the Hollywood cognoscenti. For my money, the guy who really got cheated was Michael Shannon, whose creepy-yet-charismatic turn in “Take Shelter” earned a lot of critical praise – but few ticket sales for this little-seen drama.
Shannon plays Curtis, a blue-collar Ohio family man who starts seeing strange, apocalyptic visions – birds flying into vortexes, threatening storm patterns, even indistinct human forms trying to break into the house and get his daughter (Tova Stewart) and wife (Jessica Chastain, filmdom’s Miss Everywhere for 2011).
Curtis’ own mother had a schizophrenic breakdown when she was about the age he is now, so his first thoughts are that he’s cracking up. He seeks counseling at the free clinic and reads books about mental illness.
But nothing can stop his strange impulses – especially about the old storm shelter buried in his backyard, which Curtis begins transforming into a veritable fortress.
It’s an extraordinary bit of acting by Shannon, whose face always seems on the verge of melting into a swirl of emotions. “Take Shelter” is a harrowing portrait of Midwest normalcy disrupted by dark daydreams.
By Chris Lloyd