Directed by: Jeff Nichols
Starring: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Shea Whigham, Katy Mixon
Curtis (Shannon) and his wife, Samantha (Chastain) live in a modest house on the outskirts of an Ohio town with their hearing impaired daughter, Hannah (Tova Stewart.) Curtis has a good job working in construction which affords his family to live well. To their friends and other outsiders, it seems that all is well in Curtis's life. But to the viewer, we know something is amiss in his world. From the very start of the film, Curtis is having vivid nightmares of apocalyptic storms on the horizon, and people and animals out to harm him and his family. His dreams begin to bleed over into his waking life, and he takes measures to protect the family that he loves. Curtis also has a family history of paranoid schizophrenia, which his mother is afflicted with. Curtis feels that he is beginning to lose his mind, but he presses on by building out an old tornado shelter in his backyard which would allow his family to survive in a post apocalyptic world. Soon, everything he holds dear to him comes into jeopardy as his life starts to unravel because of his assumed paranoia. But is it really paranoia? Or is Curtis really seeing something that everyone else is not?
The question left up to the viewer is whether or not Curtis is in fact going insane. Director Jeff Nichols does a beautiful job of making Curtis's dreams and reality flow together so the audience doesn't know if he is in fact dreaming or not, the ending scene really emphasizes this fact. Most big-budget blockbuster films today rely on CGI to get them through, with minimal reliance on the acting capabilities of the cast. The exact opposite can be said about this film. Though CGI special effects were used, they are not what made the film great. Michael Shannon is a force to be reckoned with his acting abilities. With over forty five roles under his belt in the last ten years, he continues to shine as an actor who is capable of expressing believable emotions in any character which he submerses himself into. Fresh of her recent success of award winning films like Tree of Life (2011) and The Help (2011), Jessica Chastain has proven that she too is a fine actor. She really engages the audience in her role as the caring and understanding wife who is trying to hold her family together.
The thing I enjoyed the most about this film is that is another example of how a little-known director can produce a film with powerful actors on a small budget...and get the Academy voters to take notice of his work.