Sunday, March 4, 2012

Supporting Actor Shannon Proves He's a Leading Man in Shelter

The chameleon thespian known as Michael Shannon has provided some truly remarkable performances in such films as 8 Mile, World Trade Center, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, The Greatest and Revolutionary Road--the film that finally got him recognized by the Academy. If there's one complaint I continually hear about Shannon's acting in a film is that his scenes are too short and I whole-heartily agree. Although Shelter verges on being a bit long, it's worth it to see Shannon's transformation in the film.

Shannon plays Curtis, a construction worker based in Ohio, trying to support his wife (Jessica Chastain) and deaf daughter (Tova Stewart). Curtis' life is not perfect, but he has people around him who think he has it pretty good. His co-worker tells him, "I think that's the best compliment you can give a man; take a good look at his life and say, 'That's good.'" However, the quality of his life and more specifically his health begin to decline when Curtis' dreams are punctuated by night terrors. His days provide little solace, when they too are disrupted by visions of an impending storm that he believes will endanger his and his family's life. He soon begins construction on an underground tornado shelter that he believes will offer safety.

The shelter takes up a good majority of the film to build, which I thought stretched a bit too long, but that's not the focus here. The real construction goes on internally with Shannon's character and seeing his transformation from supporting actor to leading man. Shannon has had leading roles in the past, like 2006's Bug, but Shelter effortlessly demonstrates the magnitude of Shannon's acting capabilities, showcasing his masculine, but silent persona only artistically interrupted by profound moments of realization going on with his character's psyche. And yet again, we have another leading actor who deserved a spot in this year's Oscar run, but was clearly and egregiously snubbed (not that the Oscars are anything to take seriously anymore). Shannon was, however, nominated for an Independent Spirit Award last month, (did anyone see host Seth Rogen poking fun at him? Hilarious! Click here to see).

Chastain played the quintessential caring, yet overbearing wife trying to understand her husband's erratic behavior and fared well opposite Shannon. She has had a successful year, starring opposite Brad Pitt in  Terrence Malicks' Tree of Life and in her Oscar nominated role (really? out of all her roles this year?) from the best-selling novel, The Help; Chastain's career is certainly one to look out for.

Take Shelter marks director and writer Jeff Nichols' second film and collaboration with Shannon, who also starred in Nichols' 2007 Shotgun Stories. Nichols' story is well crafted, tempting us to question what is reality and what is not. And I don't think I'm offering any spoilers when I say you truly cannot grasp the truth, until Nichols offers it to you at just the right moment.

Rating: B+*

*but Shannon's performance: A!


  1. "What is reality and what is not"
    Are you sure? I felt like it was clear, because he'd wake up after each weird moment.

  2. Hmm, I try not to think so black and white about endings. I think Nichols wanted us to constantly question what was happening. With the ending, I have a pretty good idea of what it meant and I agree with you, but the fact that he was schizophrenic opens up the possibility that we were always seeing through his perspective.

    I also tend to be dramatic in my reviews :)

    Thanks for the comment. It's movies, and more specifically movie premises, like these that I enjoy because it begins a dialogue.