Take Shelter (Blu-ray / DVD)
Directed by Jeff Nichols
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
It is said there is a thin line between sanity and madness, and few recent cinematic characters have walked that tightrope as precariously as Curtis LaForche, the protagonist in writer/director Jeff Nichols’ wonderful new film Take Shelter. Curtis, perfectly portrayed by the always fantastic Michael Shannon, is a normal enough, blue-collar guy doing his best to support his wife, Samantha (the equally fantastic Jessica Chastain), and their hearing-impaired daughter, Hannah (Tova Stewart, a child actress with a bright future). Curtis’ existence is fairly simple: he goes to work, hangs out with his coworker/drinking buddy Dewart (Shea Whigham, great here), comes home to be a loving father and husband, goes to bed, and then the cycle repeats. A nice life, if unremarkable. That is, until Curtis begins having dreams and hallucinations which portend an oncoming, apocalyptic storm that will turn mankind into crazed, violent creatures hellbent on attacking those not already afflicted with their madness.
The visions Curtis is subjected to detail all manner of frightening events, from oily rain coating the world to beloved pets turning rabid to normal people becoming outrageously violent, and all of it due to the massive, looming storm that always hangs in the distance. Curtis, whose family has a history of mental illness, takes great care initially to keep his dreams and waking hallucinations a secret from his friends and family. However, he doesn’t dismiss these omens and begins to build a massive storm shelter in his backyard. Eventually, Curtis’ odd behavior, strange side project and crumbling sanity take their toll, alienating the very friends and family he hopes to protect. The man’s life spirals out of control until…well, that’s all I’m saying about the plot. Whether Curtis simply has serious mental issues or is indeed foreseeing an apocalypse, I’ll leave for you to discover. I will say that this film is a must-see, full of terrific performances, fine drama, and some of the most bone-chilling sequences I’ll see in any film this year.
Now, on to the Blu-ray. Sony Pictures has given us a nice package here, with a fantastic transfer and a nice set of bonus features. The image is flawless, with a razor-sharp picture that perfectly preserves the gorgeous cinematography. The sound, too, does a wonderful job at balancing the softest of noises during the quiet scenes with the louder, more bombastic audio in the film’s more chaotic moments. Overall, just a great, great presentation.
The bonus features are nice, if not overwhelming. The audio commentary features director Nichols with Michael Shannon, and it is nice and informative, if occasionally a bit dry. Unfortunately, those looking for an explanation from the two concerning the film’s ambiguous ending will sadly find nothing of note here.
There is also a brief selection of behind-the-scenes moments, along with a handful of deleted scenes which, while nice, weren’t necessary to the film. Finishing up the set is a theatrical trailer and a fun Q&A with stars Shannon and Whigham that runs about fifteen minutes.
While the film may not qualify as “horror” to some Dread readers, I assure you that this is one of the best, and most gripping, tales I’ve had the good fortune to view this year, full of top-notch acting and stunning images. Do yourself a favor - see this ASAP.
4 1/2 out of 5
3 out of 5