Movies that Stick With Me – Take Shelter

take shelter

If you were losing your mind, how would you know? If reality is just our perception and our brains are how we perceive our reality, how would we know if what we’re seeing is actually happening? If your brain is sick, how could you know?

Take Shelter was written and directed by Jeff Nichols, the writer and director of other great movies like Mud and Shotgun Stories.

The question of reality and whether we can trust ourselves is asked throughout the length of the movie in Curtis, played by the amazing Michael Shannon. He’s plagued by visions and night terrors of a catastrophic storm that will kill many people. Are these visions a prophecy of an inevitable storm to come or is Curtis losing his mind like his paranoid schizophrenic mother did around the same age?

One thing that writer/director Jeff Nichols does better than any filmmaker I’ve ever seen is to make excellent movies using very normal characters. Mid to low income families located in Anytown, USA. He excels here again showing the struggle of Curtis, his wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain) and their deaf daughter, played by an actual deaf girl, Hannah (Tova Stewart).

The movie follows Curtis as his visions increase in frequency and clarity. He soon devotes his entire life and income into making a storm shelter for his family to ride out the squall in. Throughout the entire film I found myself on the edge of my seat as I watched this man breakdown and his wife try and make sense of it all. While I certainly won’t spoil anything, I was begging the movie to show that his visions were a prophecy. That he wasn’t losing his mind. That his actions will eventually be justified.

One scene at a local VFW was particularly heart wrenching. This guy only wants to protect his family, but can’t be sure if he should protect them from the storm or himself. Where’s the real danger coming from? I still get choked up every time I see Curtis’ wife, also a person breaking under the stress of his behavior, reach out and try and pull him back in such a loving way.

The soundtrack by David Wingo is borderline magical. It’s quite subtle, but with streaks of grandeur. Much of the soundtrack reminds me of wind chimes. What? Did I really just say wind chimes? Yes! Yes I did! When thinking about how storms generate wind, the driving force for a wind chime, and that Curtis’ mind is actually in its own storm, it couldn’t be a more genius design choice. I’d like to think it was done purposefully, but I have no idea. Or maybe I’m the only person that thinks “wind chimes” every time I listen to the soundtrack again.

I’ve seen the movie several times now and each time I find a new nugget of information I missed from the previous viewing. While some people I know felt the movie was too slow or long, I couldn’t disagree more. For my first viewing I found myself glued to my seat, eyes wide open as I watched the story unfold, trying to will it to the ending I wanted.

Would I recommend this movie? Only if you want to see astounding performances played out before you with a killer “what’s going to happen” story all wrapped up in a pretty and understated package.

Take Shelter is a movie that still gets me excited to talk about or watch. It consumed my every thought for almost an entire week after I first saw it. Making it one of only a handful of movies that has ever done that to me.

So go get Take Shelter and have your doomsday kit at the ready. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with being a little paranoid is there?

Movies that Rock My Face Off – Sunshine

sunshineWhen talking to me about movies, there’s going to be two recurring names you hear over and over: Darren Aronofsky and Danny Boyle. Between the two of those directors you’ll find a good percentage of my favorite films ever made.

Sunshine, directed by Danny Boyle, released to limited theaters in 2007 and was only showing in a cinema over an hour away from me. I happily made the trek and left the theater in awe of what I’d seen. For my money, Sunshine is one of the best science fiction films of all time. There. I said it.

The basic story is that the sun is dying and the earth is trapped in a never ending winter. A team of engineers, doctors, pilots, astronauts and physicists take a trip to the sun to throw a massive nuclear bomb at it in hopes of jump-starting it back to full power.

The ship that they fly to the sun is called Icarus 2. The name Icarus, for those of you unfamiliar, comes from a character from Greek mythology that, with the help of his father, Daedalus, constructed wings to fly out of Crete. Daedalus warned Icarus to not fly too close to the ocean or sun as the moisture from the ocean would clog the wings and the heat of the sun would melt them. Icarus ignored his father and flew too close to the sun, melting his wings and falling into the ocean where he drowned. The Greeks always appreciated a good downer story.

Back to the movie, they’re the second team to attempt this mission. The Icarus 1 disappeared without a trace partway through the trip to our nearest star.

I know all this dying sun, 1st mission goes wrong and space travel all sound like standard generic science fiction and I’ll agree that they’re all pretty staple plot points, but the magic of Sunshine is in the point that it’s human error that sends things awry.

The people of Icarus 2 actually end up finding Icarus 1 wholly intact and unharmed. To avoid major spoiler territory I’ll just say that what they decide to do and how it’s done is where the major conflict begins.

What I love deeply about this movie is the human element. The questions it raises about the sacrifice we make for others, the importance of the mission and clinging on to our humanity.

The soundtrack to this film couldn’t be more appropriate or amazing. Danny Boyle gave an almost final cut of this film to Underworld, a seasoned British electronic group, to build a soundtrack around organically. It couldn’t be more fitting.

John Murphy, a returning collaborator with Boyle, returns to lay a few tracks down for the film, but none more beautiful or powerful than Surface of the Sun, a long time favorite of mine ever since I walked out of that theater.

Should you see Sunshine? Yes. Absolutely. Should you see Sunshine even if you don’t care for science fiction? Do bears shit in the woods?

Look, Sunshine is a beautifully constructed and executed film that captures both the beauty and horror not only in nature, but in the hearts and minds of mankind.

Now go to your nearest almost bankrupt movie rental facility. Get Sunshine. Apply some SPF 50. Turn the surround sound up and have your face melted off.

If you don’t care to make time for this film, I believe Tyler Perry’s newest Madea flick just hit Redbox. That may be more your speed.