featuring the most tryhard metaphorical storm since a serious man and, oh hell yeah i'ma go there, the happening, jeff nichols' doom-mongering allegory take shelter analogises a nation's descent into economic and environmental crisis with the onset of psychosis, hoping to show that, y'know, this is an anxious period in our history and we're all walking a tightrope and we better wake the fuck up to our plight, yo. it's a big blunt stone of a film starring a big blunt stone of a lead (michael shannon), whose usual leaps between eye-twitching paranoia and troubled, stubbornly dignified stoicism as construction worker curtis go on for over two agonising hours, as nichols struggles in vain to evolve his film past the premise of an everyman slowly going nuts and turning his "good life" upside down, straining to back up the self-serious portent of his tone.
alas, curtis' torment is as mundane as foreboding can be, not in the sense that it's grounded in the reality of mental illness (in that respect the film isn't as reductive as most, but remains somewhat generic), but because it's characterised by stuff like falling birds and gnashing dogs and shitty weather and zombies and locusts and cheesy cgi-riddled dream sequences and blahhhh, using every clichéd omen of doom in the book rather than trusting a capable actor to do more of the work for us. hard to see these people as real when the director keeps sticking his nose in, bludgeoning us with one face-palmingly obvious symbol after the other; i was particularly unmoved by the deaf daughter who represents, oh you better believe it, the heedless sheeple to be shielded from the oncoming storm by our noah-surrogate.
i appreciate that, in having curtis blow his money, his job, his closest friendship (shea whigham) and potentially his marriage (jessica chastain, best thing about this film) on restoring the family bomb shelter, the film understands the irony that our doom is rooted in our terror of being doomed (bringing to mind the domino effect of panic that led to the financial crash), but it casts even this insight aside with a gotcha! joke of an epilogue revealing; awshit, maybe curtis ain't crazy after all--MAYBE IT'S THE WORLD THAT'S CRAZY. the real irony is that in its hysteria, take shelter fails to heed its own lesson.
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