By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
It’s finally that time of year when all of those great limited run indie releases that had Oscar aspirations start trickling to DVD, where they can be seen by the unwashed masses that reside in ye wilde unknowne outside of NY and LA.
Two films that I have been waiting for since Sundance 2011, all the way back in January, are among these releases- Martha Marcy May Marlene and Take Shelter, neither of which disappointed. Both boasted strong central performances in psychologically complex roles, and both took a look at parts of America that don’t usually get the cinematic treatment. Director Jeff Nichols (Shotgun Stories) has made a career of teaming up with the extremely talented Michael Shannon in films of this sort.
This one follows a construction worker (Shannon) who begins to have apocalyptic visions. As they become more and more frequent he is torn between the desire to do all he can to prepare for imminent disaster and the fear that his mother’s mental illness is starting to manifest itself in him.
Michael Shannon delivers another master-class performance and is fast becoming a perennial Best Actor candidate. He gets under the skin of his character and is never less than entirely believable and heartbreakingly earnest in a role that would simply be out of reach for lesser actors. Matching him every step of the way is Jessica Chastain, dominating yet another unique role in a year where she compiled a resume that would take most actresses five years to match. There really should be some sort of cumulative achievement award any given year for actors who thoroughly own it.
The film is also plenty good to look at, as Shannon’s visions become more vivid and complex and the scale of the apocalyptic imagery grows. Many of the shots make you want to frame them up and slap them on your wall, although that might make you a little too far ahead of the curve on End of Days chic.
The film does begin to sag a bit in the middle as the vision, do something crazy, get in a fight formula starts to get repetitive, but this is excused a bit by the consistently rising tension, which draws the audience ever forward into what would have to be an amazing ending. I won’t say any more about that here except that Nichols sticks it like Kerri Strug.
And his Russian trainer carries him off and nuzzles him with his big ‘ol walrus mustache.
The ending really pulls this flick together, but I recommend enjoying a beer during that repetitious middle part.
I need to start waiting a little longer to compile my Yearly Best Of lists, because gems like this always slip through. Beautiful, well-acted, and unpredictable.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time Michael Shannon has a dream or vision
Take a Drink: every time a wife is angry or disappointed
Drink a Shot: whenever Shannon makes a bad financial decision