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‘Take Shelter’ is gripping but long

Showtime with Sasha

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POSTED: May 4, 2012 4:00 p.m.

If you had a recurring dream foretelling some natural disaster, how would you react? Would you treat the dream as a supernatural warning, or would you dismiss it altogether?

One movie from the Sundance Film Festival examines just such a scenario. “Take Shelter,” a realistic dramatic thriller now on DVD, kicks off in small-town Ohio with blue-collar worker and family man Curtis (Michael Shannon). He is the tall, silent type, as introverted as he is dependable both at work and with his wife (Jessica Chastain) and hearing-impaired daughter. He slowly becomes unhinged, however, as a series of frightening dreams and visions tell him one simple thing: There’s a storm coming.

Curtis dreams the storm will bring everything from sickly yellow rain to madness in the people and animals around him. When sleeping pills don’t kill the intensity of his dreams, Curtis begins to prepare for the worst. He takes great pains to fortify the storm shelter behind his house despite the way his obsession seems to those around him.

“Take Shelter” was a film-festival darling and rightfully so. I’ve never seen a drama quite like it. Curtis’ dreams make him a modern-day Noah in preparing for the big flood. Shannon reveals great depth in very few words. Chastain — a favorite of mine — brought to life a young Mossad agent out of her depth in “The Debt” and the over-the-top 1960s housewife Cecelia Foote in “The Help.” In “Take Shelter,” she is just the force of nature needed to balance and contrast Curtis.

“Take Shelter” was definitely engrossing for this viewer, but I hesitate to recommend the film because of its slow burn — it’s 121 minutes long! I wonder if the same story could have been told in an hour-long episode of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.” For that reason … I’m not really a big fan!

Still, the ending packs a heck of a punch.
 
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