“This is a film that speaks to the anxiety [happening now] and hopefully answers for that stress.” — That’s how Jeff Nichols introduced his latest work, Take Shelter to audiences and immediately I realized, “this is going to be a thinker.”

To me Take Shelter felt like a Raymond Chandler short story brought to the big screen — but not in an entirely successful or unsuccessful way. The film suffers from it’s length and repetitive nature, but also benefits from it. There were a number of interesting ideas raised in the film, stunning visuals, and great acting — so it’s hard not to respect. What I liked about it is also what bothers me which makes it almost impossible to form an actual opinion on it… but I’ll give it a go…

The Players:

The idea that this film represents “the fear” that is deeply wedged into our society today makes it worth seeing. It’s fascinating for the average American viewer, but it also has some crazy effects for those of you looking for something a bit more flashy or entertaining. The end is rather satisfying, but I’m not sure if the journey is as enjoyable as the result.

The main problem with this film is that it establishes a concept (which sadly I can’t go into detail on because you really need to experience the it for yourself) and then repeats it over and over again with only a few subtle shifts. The repetitive nature of the film is accurate to the way that a “real person” would deal with the problem, so I do respect that… BUT this is a film. Sometimes honesty isn’t the best device to tell a story.

This film could have been made even stronger with a bit of cutting, some additional changes in the pattern, or some kind of acceleration through the previously mentioned patterns. Once we get to the same thing for the fourth, fifth, sixth time, do we really need to spend five minutes establishing what’s going on? The pace starts so strong, but then seems to slow down. It needed a little bit of a jolt about 45 minutes in to keep its momentum.

Despite my complaints I did enjoy that neither you nor the characters in the film knew what the hell was going on until the very end — if then. When one of these said patterns emerges, you never know what’s going on until it ends. Each time you have to discover it with the character, though you do start to predict it at a certain point, it’s still a fun ride.

The acting in the film was wonderful. Michael Shannan is incredible at giving subtle but effectual performances and Jessica Chastain did a fine job as the ever supportive wife.

Overall:

If you’re prepared to slow yourself down and turn on your brain for a bit of metaphorical cinema with fine acting, this is a great film. It’s thought-provoking and the end is satisfying enough — but it’s not an entirely easy ride to get there.

Rating: 7.5/10