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“Take Shelter” has scenes of incredible, dangerous, visual beauty: a far-off funnel cloud churning its tall gray wind; a succession of huge, serious lightning bolts tapping a fiery code across the darkness.
It has a story that develops gradually, with perfect tension and a lot more believability than I’d expect from a movie like this.
By “a movie like this,” I mean a formulaic, predictable thriller, complete with one of those soundtracks that gets louder and more tremulous whenever an ordinary moment is on the verge of turning horrifying.
Director Jeff Nichols’ film focuses on Curtis (Michael Shannon), a devoted family man suddenly overcome with terrifying dreams and visions. Curtis tries to seek help for himself, but, despite his and others’ laudable efforts, Curtis’ increasing mental instability quickly begins to interfere with all parts of his life.
Many thrillers would have viewers believe the guy with the vivid hallucinations trusts no one, has no support network, and has never heard of a psychiatrist. However, Curtis’ reaction to his newfound paranoia strikes me as completely realistic. He asks reasonable questions. He confides in his wife. He clearly suspects he’s going insane and takes pretty valiant steps to not.
While there are plenty of things I like about this film, ultimately I found it uninspired and mildly headache-inducing. First, there is the soundtrack. Then — and this is not an issue specific to this movie exactly but it still bothers me — there is the R rating “for some language.” I don’t understand why swearing, which nearly all adults do, is what kids should be protected from and not the scenes of punching, yelling, blood, or dead birds falling from the sky.
Third, while I don’t want to give any spoilers, the ending is so hackneyed and awful that any positive feelings I had for the movie — imagine these feelings as puppies — were instantly beheaded.
Those complaints aside, I understand why some might like the film. Not everyone is offended by manipulative music and parents can make their own calls about the language. And some will undoubtedly like the ending. It’s probably exciting. For me, however, it was exactly the ending I hoped this movie wouldn’t have.
“Take Shelter” (Rated R) screens at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 5, in the upstairs meeting room theater at Mesa Public Library. It and other installments of the Free Film Series, which offers screenings on the first Thursday of each month, are made possible thanks to Friends of Mesa Public Library.
For more information, call the library at 662-8240.