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Featured DVD / Blu-ray Review: Take Shelter

March 11th, 2012

Take Shelter - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Before Take Shelter opened, there was significant Awards Season buzz surrounding the film. However, it was a much smaller film than a lot of other Oscar bait, so it was mostly lost in the crowd. It did pick up a number of smaller award nominations and earned more than $1 million at the box office, but it wasn't a major player in either regard. Did it deserve to find a more receptive audience in theaters? Did it deserve to win more awards? Or was it lucky to get where it did?

The Movie

The film begins with Curtis LaForche dreaming about a storm, and not just any storm, but a storm where yellowish, oily liquid falls from the sky. This dream will be a recurring theme. This could be because the stress Curtis has been under. He's married to a great woman, Samantha, and has a wonderful daughter, Hannah; however, Hannah is deaf and the costs of her schooling has put a strain on their finances. Worries about finances could easily manifest as dreams about bad weather. Maybe it is as simple as that, or maybe there's more to it.

After some more troubling dreams, he starts to act strange. He dreams of another storm where his dog is spooked and bites him, so he makes his dog sleep outside. The lack of sleep starts to take its toil and he snaps at his wife. After more dreams, he begins to build a storm shelter. They do live in tornado country, so this doesn't seem too out of place. But as these dreams intensify, he begins to worry the dreams mean more. There is a history of mental illness in his family, as his mom developed paranoid schizophrenia at roughly the same age he is now. He begins taking medicine to help him sleep and begins therapy as well, but nothing he does can shake his obsession with a massive storm that he thinks is coming. He takes out a risky loan and even 'borrows' equipment from work to build his storm shelter, but is this obsession a sign of mental illness, or something more?

This film has amazing performances from Michael Shannon, as well as Jessica Chastain in a supporting role. Both actors have earned Oscar nominations for other films and both actors earned Independent Spirit Award nominations for this film, and it is easy to see why. The film has good writing and directing, both supplied by Jeff Nichols. He created a story dealing with mental illness, and how stability can be taken away so suddenly, and connected that with the financial state that a lot of people find themselves in today. He managed to fill this film with tension, by never allowing the audience to fully settle on the nature of Curtis's dreams. However, as strong as the script is, it is the incredible central performance that carries the film.

On the other hand, I've heard complaints by some that the film is too long, too drawn out, too many scenes linger a little too long, etc. In short, overall it has general pacing issues. I'm not to going to dismiss these criticisms, as there is some validity to them, but in my opinion they are not damaging enough to hurt the quality of the movie.

The Extras

The extras on the DVD begin with an audio commentary with Jeff Nichols and Michael Shannon. It's not the most energetic track I've listened to, but the two have good chemistry together and provide a lot of information. Up next is an 11-minute behind-the-scenes featurette. There is also a 20-minute Q&A session with Michael Shannon and Shea Whigham, who played Curtis's best friend in the movie. Finally, there are two deleted scenes with a combined running time of 6 minutes. This is better than most limited releases have and adds significant value to the DVD.

I don't have the Blu-ray to compare, but it only costs $4 more, or about 20% more, so it is worth paying extra for.

The Verdict

Both A HREF=>Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain are actors who, simply by signing up for a film, raise my interest in that film significantly. Because of this, Take Shelter was a movie I was looking forward to seeing for a long time, and it didn't disappoint. There are more than enough extras on the DVD to make it worth picking up, while paying just 20% more for the Blu-ray is a bargain.

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Filed under: Video Review, Take Shelter