Take Shelter (2011)

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Released 15-Mar-2012

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-Jeff Nichols and Michael Shannon
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-of Take Shelter (10.10)
Interviews-Cast-Q&A Michael Shannon and Shea Whigham (19.03)
Deleted Scenes-(5.44)
Theatrical Trailer-(2.08)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2011
Running Time 116:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jeff Nichols

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Michael Shannon
Jessica Chastain
Tova Stewart
Shea Whigham
Katy Mixon
Natasha Randall
Ron Kennard
Case ?
RPI ? Music David Wingo

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis


Curtis: you think I'm crazy? Well, listen up, there's a storm coming like nothing you've ever seen and not one of you is prepared for it.

Curtis LaForche (Michael Shannon) is a sand miner in a small town outside Cleveland, Ohio. He lives with his wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain) and their daughter Hannah (Tova Stewart) a young girl who has become deaf through illness in the recent past. Despite this setback Curtis has a lucky life - a fact which does not go unnoticed by co-worker and best buddy Dewart (Shea Whigham).

There's just one problem. Of late Curtis has been plagued by dreams or, more properly, nightmares. They all start the same - storm clouds approach in the distance, dirty rain falls from the sky. Violent and dark images emerge.

Unable to shake these visions Curtis becomes more and more convinced that the "big storm" is coming and he needs to prepare. To the exasperation of Samantha he begins to build an extension to the unused storm shelter in the backyard, ploughing all his time and efforts into making it perfect. All the while his mental health is deteriorating and Curtis begins to alienate those around him.

Mental problems aren't new to Curtis's family. His mother was institutionalised when Curtis was a toddler. As the relationship between Curtis and Samantha becomes strained and his working life impossible, will Curtis accept the outsider's view, that it's all in his head, and seek proper help? Or will his visions of the Apocalypse be proved correct and, if so, will he be ready to sit out the storm.

Take Shelter is the second feature film written and directed by Jeff Nichols. It is also his second pairing with Michael Shannon, after 2009 is Shotgun Stories. Nichols has written a complex and troubling script that questions the way we deal with mental health issues, particularly the reluctance of men to seek help. It is also a love story about the strength of the bonds of love to pull couples through the most difficult of times.

Films of this type face the eternal divide. Is it a case of overpowering mental illness where Curtis is the deluded soul, seeing tornadoes whipping around him whilst others see nothing? Or is he a genuine prognosticator of doom? Nichols handles this question in an ambivalent fashion refusing to commit until the very end. The ending itself may disappoint some viewers however there is no doubt that the journey has been tense and powerful.

Michael Shannon is a brilliant actor. Though he has been performing in films since Groundhog Day his qualities have only been truly recognised recently, after an Oscar nomination for his performance (also as a mentally disturbed individual) in Revolutionary Road as well as an important role in Boardwalk Empire. Here he plays Curtis as a man struggling to balance the competing voices in his head-one insisting it is all a delusion and the other willing him to complete the shelter.

Jessica Chastain has emerged from almost nowhere to become a major player in modern Hollywood. Her series of roles from 2011 included key performances in The Tree of Life, The Debt, The Help as well as her strong turn in this film as the dedicated wife struggling to keep her family together. The smaller performances are also of note. Cathy Baker as Curtis's mother has a small but important role. Shea Whigham, also from Boardwalk Empire, is strong as Curtis's best friend. Finally, mention must be made of Tova Stewart, a deaf girl in real life, who gives a lovely performance as the young daughter.

Take Shelter is a slow burn psychological drama which has much to offer the fan of dramatic performance.

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Transfer Quality


Take Shelter was shot on super 35 mm film and projected at the cinema at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.

This DVD is in the correct aspect ratio. It is 16x9 enhanced.

Although made on a low budget Jeff Nichols has managed to extract a good-looking film with the aid of cinematographer Adam Stone. There is a muted colour palette on offer and the film conveys this look well. There is a light grain structure.

The flesh tones are accurate. The colours, though muted, are well handled. There is a pleasing level of detail in the image which looks quite sharp throughout.

There are subtitles in English and English for the hearing-impaired.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


Take Shelter carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack running at 448 Kb/s. There is also a commentary track which is Dolby Digital 2.0 running at 192 Kb/s.

The dialogue is clear and easy to understand. These surround sound is welcome in this film which contains numerous instances of sound placement including rain, thunder and wind. It makes for a engrossing mix. The sub-woofer also comes into effect when the storms roll in.

The soundtrack is by composer David Wingo. He deserves special mention creating a perfect match for the film. Wingo uses small themes and sounds to create an unsettling effect.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


The DVD of Take Shelter includes numerous extras.

Commentary track Jeff Nichols and Michael Shannon

Those wanting a commentary track full of thematic detail and information regarding the nuances of the script are in the wrong place. This is really a factual track where director/writer and lead actor come together to reminisce about the making of the film. It is full of interesting titbits about the production process particularly the difficulty of working on a low budget. This necessitated filming out of chronological order meaning that some of the last scenes in the film were shot first. There is a fair bit of humour in the commentary track as Shannon insists that it was important that his co-stars were excellent but not too good in case they overshadowed his performance-he insisted that the director had to tell them to "back off a bit" if they were getting too good!

There are also some interesting stories relating to the production such as the fact that the dog received all his commands in German and had no affinity with Shannon. It did get on very well with Tova Stewart. Those hoping for a detailed explanation of the ending will also be disappointed as the pair deliberately state that it is open to interpretation.

Behind the Scenes-The Making of Take Shelter

This is a decent Making of featurette which takes us on to the set interviewing the key players and seeing some of the work that went into making the film. This not only includes the actors but also the production designers as they worked to create the shelter.

SAG Foundation-interview with Michael Shannon and Shea Whigham

This is an interesting Q&A with the lead actors as they discuss their introduction to the script and the performance difficulties. It is intercut with segments from the film. For those keen to find out Shannon's view of the ending he does give his interpretation of sorts

Deleted scenes

There are two deleted scenes on offer. One is a second counselling session. It is hard to know whether there should have been included in the film as it essentially deals with one of the more frustrating aspects of the character of Curtis. That is, if he is so convinced that his visions may arise from a history of mental illness in his family then why does he cause so much heartache to those surrounding him by building the shelter? Perhaps the director excluded the scene to allow the audience make up their own minds.

The second scene is a short segment in the backyard which helps to establish Samantha's dedication to seeing her family through these troubles.

Theatrical trailer

An interesting trailer for the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

 The feature set seems identical for different Regions. Buy local.


Take Shelter is not a masterpiece however it is an intriguing look at obsession. There is no doubt that Curtis does what he does out of a desire to protect his family. The only question is whether he makes the right choices.

The DVD transfer is of fine quality both in sound and vision terms.

There are numerous extras to interest a fan of the movie.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Monday, April 02, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

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