HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – Anybody that travelled the path from a “normal” person to that of a prepper will quickly identify with the themes set forth in Jeff Nichol’s inaugural film “Take Shelter.”
There is the average, working father that begins to see the world differently, and fears for his family. There are the awkward stumbles that follow emotional purchases of products and survival gear that threaten the family’s financial wellbeing.
There is the spouse that recognizes the radical change in her husband’s behavior, and tries to cope with it. The friends notice it too.
And then there is the protagonist’s self-doubt, concern that he is going mad, which follows the strife caused by the new energy driving the husband to become a prepper. Is he finally awake to what the world is, or is his need to prepare delusional?
While all this swirls throughout the movie, there is redemption and proof of love that are as powerful and important as the big payoff at the end.
Of course, in the political environment we live in today, viewers of the five-year-old movie that virtually no one ever watched will question the message of the film’s producers from the outset.
As the opening scene of “Take Shelter” unfolds you might worry about whether the filmmakers are going to lecture viewers about climate change or the environment. Don’t.
While watching the film you might forget that movies and television often overdramatize scenes in order to illustrate key points of the story. Don’t.
Also, don’t be put off by the “R” rating. Other than some intense moments, this reviewer can’t understand the reasons for the rating. There is not any language to speak of, nor sex scenes nor blood or other silliness you might see in a “PG-13” movie today.
Simply put, this independent film with big time actors, but not a big time budget or over-the-top special effects, tells the story of a religious, blue-collar husband and father that is dealing with the aftermath of apocalyptic visions he is having.
“Take Shelter” is a taut drama that explores the struggles of Curtis, who is deeply troubled by the growing realization that something is wrong in the world today.
Michael Shannon, who plays Curtis, is a “regular guy” movie star cast perfectly for this film. He’s not particularly handsome, but he’s not ugly. He is intelligent, but he can look and play the part of a simpleton effortlessly. And his ability to look like the intensely angry madman is just as easily softened by true vulnerability and sensitivity.
His wife, Samantha, played by Jessica Chastain, is understanding and sympathetic. She works hard to support her husband and her home while he struggles on the job, and attempts to deal with his overwhelming feelings that something bad is going to happen.
In post-production interviews contained on the DVD, Shannon said this was really a love story about a husband and wife whose struggles threaten the family.
But happy and understanding is not always the way of their home, and Curtis’ fear and concern often overtake him as he takes measures to safeguard his family, including a homemade storm shelter.
Preppers and survivalists will identify with the struggle Curtis goes through as he takes his version of prudent measures for his family’s safety, while not informing or alarming his wife and very young child.
As the movie progresses through each act, we learn that Curtis is a smart but simple laborer. He’s not unintelligent; he’s just not an expressive, verbal man. The fact that he doesn’t really know how to explain his emotions, and concerns, only reinforces his everyman character and makes his cinematic journey towards prepping even more identifiable and powerful.
Of course, his lack of communication, and haphazard approach to prepping, drives the tension among his family, friends, and workplace as he becomes consumed with preparing for a SHTF event.
Curtis doesn’t have the benefit of researching his emotions and actions from prepper books and websites. He’s left to his own devices as he struggles to figure out what is going on and what to do.
For many, the emotional payoff will come in the middle of the movie, when Curtis is confronted by his best friend at a community dinner. Curtis’ response is something we’ve all wanted to scream.
“You think I’m crazy? Is that what he told you,” our protagonist yells to a stunned crowd. “Well, listen up. There is a storm coming, like nothing you have ever seen! And not a one of you is prepared!”
Making matters worse is that Curtis’ family has a history of psychological disorders, mainly his paranoid schizophrenic mother. And what we are left to figure out is whether his concerns over possible world-ending events are real, or is he simply losing his mind.
Viewers will recognize Michael Shannon from his work on “Boardwalk Empire,” “Man of Steel,” and “The Midnight Special.” Chastain is an Academy Award nominee from her work with “Zero Dark 30” and “The Help.” She also starred in “Interstellar,” “The Martian,” and the upcoming “Miss Sloane.”
Nichols’ directorial debut is well paced and thought provoking. Somehow he clearly understands the struggles people undergo when they begin to realize that all is not right in this world. As we progress through the various chapters of the film, viewers will wonder how they managed to get through all the various stages of prepping that Curtis is going through.
That the actor Shannon personally misses or ignores the obvious fact that his character, Curtis, is the mirror image of millions of prepper Americans, who worry about the state of the world, has no bearing on the quality or truth behind his performance.
Whether the film’s dramatic conclusion pays off for individual viewers remains to be seen. This reviewer thinks it does, but then again this reviewer appreciates good movies, even if the climax isn’t exactly what he hoped for.
Bloggers and retailers in the survival industry should certainly see this film as probably one of the best of its genre regardless of whether the final act shows Shannon’s character to be right in his concerns, or psychologically impaired.
We all want to know if being a prepper or survivalist is a fool’s errand or prudent management for our family and ourselves.
And whether you like the ending or not, this is probably the perfect prepper movie for beginners to enjoy and learn from.
This film should be on everyone’s watch list especially for those who are just entering into the prepper mode.
Bloggers and retailers would do well to take advantage of “Take Shelter’s” five-year anniversary for their readers and customers.
This movie holds up, and should be celebrated by everyone who appreciates the prepper and survival movement. Paratus Business News strongly recommends this movie.