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Quint calls the Michael Shannon end-of-days thriller TAKE SHELTER the best film of Sundance 2011!

Published at: Jan. 28, 2011, 6:06 p.m. CST by quint

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. There comes a time at every Sundance where I see a movie that becomes the flick of the fest. In previous years it has been titles like Once, The Signal and Hesher. Unless something better comes along in the next day and a half the title of best film at Sundance 2011 goes to Take Shelter.

There’s been a few trends at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Animal cruelty is one, unfortunately. Another is sign language (Project Nim, Take Shelter, Perfect Sense come to mind) and yet another is a trend of underwhelming or fumbled third acts. The low budget sci-fi flick ANOTHER EARTH is one that drops the ball in the finale, which derails the movie for me and to a lesser degree Homework, a coming of age rom-com starring Emma Roberts and Freddie Highmore, kinda trips up a little in the end.

While sitting in the Library Theater surrounded by a lot of familiar faces trying to catch the last screening after its much buzzed about early screenings watching Take Shelter unfold I kept repeating “Please stick the landing, please stick the landing” over and over in my head.

The set up is great, but it’s the kind of set up that if it isn’t handled correctly in the end just becomes another “almost there” film festival movie. I’m happy to report that Take Shelter bucks the trend and does indeed stick the landing getting a perfect score from this judge.

Michael Shannon plays a loving husband and father who begins having terrible nightmares… like wake up screaming stress nightmares… Horrible things, like his child being taken, his dog attacking him, people he trusts turning violently on him. Each one is predicated by an oncoming, horrible storm. The rain is thick and discolored, like clean motor oil and there are strange people shown only in fragments… flashes of hands, outlines of bodies through windows, etc.

 

 

Director Jeff Nichols makes a great decision to shoot the nightmare scenes exactly like he shoots the waking world stuff so there are times where you don’t realize something crazy is about to happen.

Shannon’s mother is a committed schizophrenic and Shannon is terrified that he’s experiencing early symptoms of the disease, but at the dreams become more and more frequent, as they start to overlap into reality, he begins obsessing over expanding his simple storm shelter into a real life end of days fully stocked shelter.

The great thing about this isn’t that he’s full on Roy Neary obsessed… he’s not, he’s conflicted every step of the way, torn between a gut feeling that he has to save his family from an impending doom and the fear that he’s going legitimately crazy.

When you have an actor of Shannon’s caliber playing this kind of tortured character you get one of the screen’s great performances. The dude kills in this movie… in one shot you can see his eyes go from crazy to angry to ashamed to terrified with an ease that is kind of breathtaking to be honest.

Everybody in the movie is fantastic, especially Shannon’s wife (played by Jessica Chastain, soon to be seen in Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life) who has the difficult task of being the worrying wife and mother without becoming the standard nagging realist in a situation like this. Think of Teri Garr in Close Encounters (which I keep referencing because there are a whole lot of undeniable parallels). We see her at the end of her rope, but I find it hard to fully sympathize with her by the end. I didn’t have that trouble with Chastain.

Because, like Shannon himself, Chastain doesn’t know what to think about her husband’s obsession and premonitions. Just like how most people would react in reality. Nobody knows anything 100% for sure and because the characters are so fleshed out you’re invested to the bitter end.

And as I’ve mentioned, the end delivers in spades, so the investment pays off. The result is the best movie I’ve seen at Sundance and a likely early contender for my favorites of 2011 list.

I have to give some love to Hydraulx effects for their low budget work here. Their angry storm work is fantastic and didn’t feel like digital paint blobs moving around (which you kind of expect with low budget CG work). I hear they shot 2D plates of  storm systems and integrated them seamlessly, so good work, guys.

You may be surprised to know that The Strauss Brothers are producers of this film. You’d never in a million years associate this kind of slow burn character study with the makers of Skyline and AvP 2, but count me impressed they did what they could to get Jeff Nichols’ script and directorial vision up on the screen.

Take Shelter is a fantastic movie, a taut thriller, an emotional depiction of a solid family unit fracturing under paranoia and a tour de force leading performance by one of our best working character actors. I can’t recommend this one enough.

 

 

If you want an up to the minute account of what I’m seeing and my immediate verdict on Sundance flicks as I see them be sure to follow me on Twitter!

-Quint
quint@aintitcool.com
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Readers Talkback

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  • Jan. 28, 2011, 6:11 p.m. CST

    seriously

    by mr. smith

    Michael Shannon is the shit. for real.

  • Jan. 28, 2011, 6:11 p.m. CST

    Shannon is the real deal.

    by Mr Soze

    Revolutinary Road and Boardwalk Empire he chews up and spits out all the scenes.

  • Jan. 28, 2011, 6:24 p.m. CST

    Shannon is virtually peerless.

    by Yeah I Wrote That

    One or two more great movies and the people around here will start to hate him. Bug FTW.

  • Jan. 28, 2011, 6:25 p.m. CST

    I'm going to echo what the 2 above me have already said...

    by LaneMyersClassic

    Shannon is amazing... Look at his movie list on IMDB, even if the movies are forgettable, you always remember his character. Reminds me a lot of Vic Morrow, but with a lot more potential to go just go nuts. You want to know where this generation's Deniro, Caan, Dern, or Pacino are? This guy is one of the best.

  • Jan. 28, 2011, 6:31 p.m. CST

    You mean

    by golden tribw

  • Jan. 28, 2011, 6:31 p.m. CST

    You mean "2d plates of storm systems"

    by golden tribw

    There is no such thing as a 2D storm system, they exist in the real world, in all three dimensions.

  • Jan. 28, 2011, 6:37 p.m. CST

    Totally agree.

    by Chest_Rockwell

    This guy just dominates every scene he's in. Bug, Rev Road, BE, hell, he even had a couple good lines in that freaking shitfest Pearl Harbor. He's so good, it's almost not really fair to his costars.

  • Jan. 28, 2011, 6:50 p.m. CST

    Quint, Hydraulx is an FX HOUSE owned by the STRAUSS BROS.

    by Mennen

    you knew that, yes?

  • Jan. 28, 2011, 6:57 p.m. CST

    A 2D Storm System --

    by MooseMalloy

    -- recently upgraded to 3D. Watch for random flying objects!

  • Jan. 28, 2011, 7:37 p.m. CST

    Hope they write...

    by Mr Soze

    A couple of scenes in Boardwalk with Shannon and Jack Houston next season

  • Jan. 28, 2011, 7:38 p.m. CST

    Also, Jessica Chastain

    by MooseMalloy

    Man I got to check out that JOLENE movie!

  • Jan. 28, 2011, 9:28 p.m. CST

    Shannon as Joker

    by rogerdodger21

    i know someone's probably said it before, but my first thought when ledger died is that shannon could seamlessly fall into that role under the make-up. he would have been slammed up until people saw the work, and nolan understandably had too much respect for ledger to bring back the character, but i still think he would own it. we'll never know. this guy just keeps making great choices and is sneaking his way into being a great leading man because he's got so much compassion AND so much fucking darkness in his eyes. you never know what his characters will do. exciting to watch.

  • Jan. 28, 2011, 9:31 p.m. CST

    shannon may be the greatest character actor of this age

    by john

    i mean the guy is absolutely brilliant and melts into every role

  • Jan. 28, 2011, 10:34 p.m. CST

    Shannon was brilliant in BUG.

    by jrb

    Also great in SHOTGUN STORIES.

  • Jan. 28, 2011, 10:47 p.m. CST

    Would be perfect as Roland in The Dark Tower

    by Craze612

  • Jan. 28, 2011, 11:07 p.m. CST

    Few are better than Michael Shannon

    by memento108

    The guy is ridiculously talented. His work on Boardwalk Empire is evidence enough

  • Jan. 28, 2011, 11:58 p.m. CST

    Looking forward to this

    by fustfick

    I'm keen on Shannon, especially in Friedkin's "Bug" and Herzog's "My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done." And "Take Shelter" sounds like it belongs on the mantle with those two. That said, this year's Sundance programming really sounds like a bunch of shit. Though, Quint's assertions that "animal cruelty" is one of this year's trends has definitely piqued my interest. What's up with that?

  • Jan. 29, 2011, 12:22 p.m. CST

    on Boardwalk Empire

    by jb

    Michael Shannon is so great he basically ruins the show. The other actors just plain suck, or maybe the other characters are just written blandly.

  • Jan. 29, 2011, 12:28 p.m. CST

    Wait, people actually liked The Signal?

    by billcom6

    (Assuming you are talking about the 2007 movie that uses 3 directors) That is easily one of the worst movies I have ever seen. Not only did the 3 parts totally not work together well at all, they weren't even good by themselves.

  • Jan. 29, 2011, 12:37 p.m. CST

    Another Earth

    by Blood Simple

    Quint, I'm interested to know what in the finale of Another Earth derailed the film for you? I saw it last night, and the ending (which I'm assuming you are referring to) kind of made the film for me. It was one of my favorite films I saw this year, and there's nothing flashy about. It's a little rough around the edges, but the acting and premise were pretty great. Just my two cents.

  • Jan. 29, 2011, 1:14 p.m. CST

    I was watching something else with him in it...

    by skiprat1

    ... I randomly found while channel surfing, and was telling my wife how I think he's awesome in a bunch of stuff I've seen him in, but had no idea who he was, or what he'd been in when she asked.

  • Jan. 29, 2011, 3:42 p.m. CST

    Liked Shannon since I saw him for the first time in Tigerland

    by SierraTangoFoxtrotUniform

    I knew he was capable. I think his lack of typical Hollywood leading male sex appeal crap keeps him from being up there with Clooney et all, although he is a better actor.

  • Jan. 29, 2011, 4:52 p.m. CST

    Where are the fucking trailers for all these movies?

    by Sardonic

  • Jan. 29, 2011, 5:57 p.m. CST

    Shannon is this generation's Gary Oldman or Forest Whittaker

    by DougMcKenzie

    You just know you are going to see a great performance with his name in the credits, no matter the caliber of the rest of the cast or director.

  • Jan. 29, 2011, 7:20 p.m. CST

    See him in 13

    by harosa

    See him in 13, he chews up every scene he's in.

  • Jan. 29, 2011, 7:20 p.m. CST

    See him in 13

    by harosa

    See him in 13, he chews up every scene he's in.

  • Jan. 30, 2011, 3:23 p.m. CST

    Wrestlemania!!!!

    by phifty2

  • Jan. 30, 2011, 7:46 p.m. CST

    No hate on Shannon yet?

    by proevad

    ...I'm not going to start. Guy is amazing. But I think Bale is too, so wtf do i know.

  • Feb. 1, 2011, 10:34 a.m. CST

    Shotgun Stories is his best work

    by Detective_Fingerling

    with Bug a close second. I don't really like him in Empire though. Just seems like I've seen him play that same character a million times.