Rain the color and viscosity of fluids found in barrels at Jiffy Lube falls from the sky in the opening moments of “Take Shelter,” serving as a dark harbinger of things to come. Right out of the gate, this act of weird weather alerts the audience that something bad is going to happen, and the calm before the storm will be anything but serene.
As he tells his doctor, “It’s not a dream, it’s a feeling.”
Any lifelong Oklahoman can empathize, having known the torturous, nerve-wracked waiting game that exists when our television meteorologists switch into doomsday mode, and we huddle with loved ones in that middle closet, not knowing whether the roof over our heads will be there 20 minutes later. If only you can make it that long without incident, everything will be fine.
That’s what “Take Shelter” feels like, but for two hours. In his sophomore effort, writer/director Jeff Nichols (“Shotgun Stories”) turns “Twister” into a thinking man’s thriller. It’s a slow burn, but a profoundly tense one, leaving the audience to wonder if Curtis is judiciously cautious or just crazy.
Luckily, no one does potentially insane better than Shannon, turning in another superb performance to stand aside his breakout turns in “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” and “Revolutionary Road,” for which he deservedly won an Oscar nomination. Matching his excellence as his fragile wife is Jessica Chastain, capping an already great year of work in “The Debt,” “The Help” and “The Tree of Life.”
Naturally, the rural Ohio sky is a supporting cast member in itself, with Nichols depicting the weather as both beauty and beast. Only one makes it to the final shot.