The Last Jedi is a Messy Masterpiece
Aside from one particularly huge announcement this week regarding the sequel to “Man of Steel,” it’s been a quiet couple weeks in the popular culture world, due in no small part to the winding down of the summer movie season as patrons return to school.
So I thought I could use this time to bring attention to a lesser-known, but amazing film I had the pleasure of experiencing in my free time. “Take Shelter,” directed by Jeff Nichols, was not incredibly financially successful upon it’s release, but made enormous waves at the Toronto and Sundance film festivals, and is already being hailed as an American classic by many film circles.
The film’s plot is fairly straightforward; Curtis LaForche is an honest and hardworking family man who is loved by his community almost as much as he loves his doting wife and adorable, albeit deaf, daughter. However, Curtis’s life changes, for the worst, when he begins to experience haunting nightmares of the end of the world, which eventually translate into vivid daytime hallucinations.
Unable to shake his sense of unease, Curtis begins planning for the inevitable; including pouring the family’s savings into a hollowed-out storm shelter, and severing ties with friends and family that he feels cannot be trusted.
This, understandably, puts a strain on Curtis’s life and relationships, and it is not inconceivable to him that he is going insane. We are compelled to agree. However, even as Curtis’s idyllic life is thrashed by his delusions, we cannot look away, because we cannot help but feel the same sense of dread he feels. And, like Curtis, we cannot explain why.
This, of course, is thanks to Nichol’s brilliant sense of direction and atmosphere, not to mention the unnerving score.
The film is, in many ways, far more frightening than most horror films, if only for the unrelenting feeling of anxiety that permeates every scene, alleviated only by a few jump scares in poor Curtis’s dreams. But what makes the film truly haunting is the performances by its two leads.
Jessica Chastain, who recently was nominated for an Oscar for her work on “Zero Dark Thirty” this previously year, is suitably impressive as a wife trying desperately to keep her family together.
But the film’s best element by far is Michael Shannon, who you may remember from “Boardwalk Empire,” “Man of Steel,” and the now-infamous college humor video where he reads an angry sorority letter.
Shannon is no stranger to loud scenes, but his role here is perfectly reserved. His stressful journey to save his family, either from or with, the power of his own delusions is conveyed almost entirely in his expressions.
It’s genuinely amazing how powerful the drama is between the two main characters, when most of what needs to be said is told simply through what’s written on their faces.
To go much further into detail would give too much away, but the situation becomes far worse, to the point that it builds to a climax that is as surprising as it is earned.
Suffice to say, this is one of the more flawless and wholly satisfying films I’ve seen in many years, and I downloaded it on youtube of all places. If you’re not interested in going out, and are more interested in a quieter, but unrelentingly cathartic flick, it’s definitely worth checking out.