Blu-ray Review Take Shelter Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Richard Gallagher, Feb 17, 2012.

  1. Richard Gallagher

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    Take Shelter is an intense and disturbing look at a working class family man's descent into obsessive mental illness - or is it? Writer-Director Jeff Nichols has crafted an impressive, highly original and somewhat ambiguous breakthrough film which marks him as a filmmaker to keep an eye on. Take Shelter was an official selection at both Sundance and the Toronto Film Festival and it won many accolades from critics at Cannes. It has an outstanding cast and surprisingly high production values for a relatively low budget independent film, and it is recommended for viewers who are looking for something different.
     


    Take Shelter

    Studio: Sony/
    Year: 2011
    Rated: R
    Program Length: 121 minutes                         
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p
    Languages: English 5.1 DTS-HD MA
    Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

    The Program

    Take Shelter is an intense and disturbing look at a working class family man's descent into obsessive mental illness - or is it? Writer-Director Jeff Nichols has crafted an impressive, highly original and somewhat ambiguous breakthrough film which marks him as a filmmaker to keep an eye on. Take Shelter was an official selection at both Sundance and the Toronto Film Festival and it won many accolades from critics at Cannes. It has an outstanding cast and surprisingly high production values for a relatively low budget independent film, and it is recommended for viewers who are looking for something different.

    Curtis LaForche (Michael Shannon) is a foreman for a business which does drilling and other heavy equipment operations in a rural area of Ohio. He has a modest home which he shares with his wife, Samantha (Jessica Chastain) and their hearing-impaired daughter, Hannah (Tova Stewart). His best friend, Dewart (Shea Whigham), also is his co-worker. Hannah is in need of a cochlear implant and Samantha has been frustrated by her inability to get the health insurance company to approve the procedure.

    It is against this background that Curtis' life begins to unravel. One afternoon he is working in his back yard when massive, ominous storm clouds begin to roll in, followed by a twister. When Curtis rushes to pick up Hannah, the family dog, Red, breaks loose and attacks him. Suddenly Curtis wakes up - it was just a terribly realistic nightmare. However, even though Curtis recognizes that it was a dream it has a profound effect upon him. He believes that it is a premonition that the dog poses a danger to his daughter. This is followed by an even more disturbing dream in which he and Hannah are involved in an auto accident during a storm and they are attacked by a mob of strangers.

    Curtis recognizes that these dreams and visions are not normal, but nevertheless they cause him to become obsessed about protecting his family. He buys a dog house and builds a pen for Red and prohibits the dog from coming into the house. Curtis then decides that he needs to refurbish and expand the rarely used underground storm shelter which is on his property. His behavior becomes increasingly erratic, and without Samantha's knowledge he takes out a home improvement loan which he cannot afford in order to complete the expansion of the shelter. In the process he puts both the family's finances and his job at risk. He actually recognizes that he is showing signs of schizophrenia, and even though he seeks out help he is unable to control his compulsive behavior.

    Take Shelter raises many questions but provides no pat answers or easy solutions. Michael Shannon, who is familiar to viewers as the repressed prohibition agent on Boardwalk Empire, plays a tightly-wound character as well as any actor. Shea Whigham, who also appears in Boardwalk Empire, is excellent as the co-worker whose friendship is strained as Curtis' actions become increasingly bizarre. Jessica Chastain, whose acting career is taking off with notable roles in such highly praised films as The Help and The Tree of Life, is convincing as Curtis' bewildered yet loyal wife. Her performance earned her a Best Supporting Actor nod from the New York Film Critics Circle. Kathy Baker also appears in a small role as Curtis' mother.

    Take Shelter also garnered five Film Independent Spirit Award nominations. It is the sort of film which you keep thinking about it long after the closing credits.

    The Video

    Take Shelter is a Sony Blu-ray, so it is a foregone conclusion that the transfer is excellent in every respect. The film benefits greatly from the fact that it was shot on location in Ohio, and some outstanding CGI work has been done to create very realistic storm scenes. However, no special effects were used to create the scenes of the storm shelter being expanded. The filmmakers actually brought in a backhoe and excavated to make room for the expansion. There also are some highly effective and frightening scenes of aggressive birds which will make viewers flinch. This Blu-ray provides a very pleasing cinematic experience.

    The Audio

    The lossless 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack is outstanding. The claps of thunder and the sounds of driving rain and high winds are very realistic and give the viewer the sensation of being immersed in the action. Dialogue is always clear and understandable, and the surround channels also do an excellent job of conveying more discrete ambient sounds. Take Shelter is a powerful film which is well-served by its equally powerful soundtrack.

    The Supplements

    Fans of Take Shelter will enjoy the informative commentary track by Jeff Nichols and Michael Shannon. It is something of a relief to realize that Shannon is much more thoughtful and relaxed than the characters he often plays on screen.

    Shannon and Shea Whigham are featured in a 20-minute Q&A session which was conducted by the Screen Actors Guild Foundation. The two men have worked together several times and they have developed a strong friendship and a well-deserved mutual admiration society.

    A short 11-minute featurette entitled "Behind the Scenes of Take Shelter" is pretty much self-explanatory. It was a bit surprising to learn that in one highly-charged scene the local extras had no idea what was going to happen. Consequently, their reactions on film tend to be quite realistic.

    Two deleted scenes help to flesh out some of the details of the story. They probably were cut to keep the running time of the film as close to two hours as possible.

    Sony has included the original theatrical trailer for Take Shelter, as well as previews for The Skin I Live In; A Dangerous Method; Carnage; In the Land of Blood & Honey; and Retreat.

    The Packaging

    The single disc comes in a standard Blu-ray keep case.

    The Final Analysis

    Take Shelter is not for all tastes, but readers who find the premise to be intriguing are not likely to be disappointed. Those who dislike inconclusive endings may be put off by the film's final scene, although that is the only caveat I can offer up. The acting is first-rate and the film looks and sounds terrific.

    Equipment used for this review:

    Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player
    Panasonic Viera TC-P46G15 Plasma display, calibrated to THX specifications by Gregg Loewen
    Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
    BIC Acoustech speakers
    Interconnects: Monster Cable

    Release Date: February 14, 2012

     

     
  2. jauritt

    jauritt Stunt Coordinator

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    I didn't find the final scene inconclusive in the least.
     
  3. Richard Gallagher

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    Check out the Q&A session on the Blu-ray.
     
  4. jauritt

    jauritt Stunt Coordinator

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    I just did watch the Q&A session, as well as all the "making of" segment and the commentary and, even though Michael Shannon makes a reference to the ending being "ambiguous", I personally don't see it that way at all. If it was Jeff Nichols intention to have the audience perceive the ending that way then, at least for me anyway, he wasn't successful, which is the only thing he wasn't successful at, seeing as how this is a great movie no matter what an individuals interpretation of the ending might be.
     
  5. Richard Gallagher

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    No argument there. There certainly is no rule that everyone has to perceive the ending in the same way. It is an excellent and original film and I hope that a lot of people discover it.
     

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