Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 2011. Hydraulx, REI Capital, Grove Hill Productions, Strange Matter Films. Screenplay by Jeff Nichols. Cinematography by Adam Stone. Produced by Tyler Davidson, Sophia Lin. Music by David Wingo. Production Design by Chad Keith. Costume Design by Karen Malecki. Film Editing by Parke Gregg. Gotham Awards 2011. Independent Spirit Awards 2011. National Board of Review Awards 2011. New York Film Critics Awards 2011. Toronto International Film Festival 2011. Washington Film Critics Awards 2011.
Michael Shannon is electrifying as a steadily employed Ohio construction worker who lives the good life with his wife (Jessica Chastain) and daughter but is plagued by unsettling, apocalyptic visions. Night after night he experiences nightmares about Biblical destructions upon the land, and things get hairier when he begins to see omens in his waking life as well. Pretty soon he no longer wants his dog around, and begins to gather materials with which to build a storm shelter behind his home. Is there a judgement coming upon the world? Or is he slowly going insane? This excellent drama rides the line between the two possibilities with such intelligent precision that you will find yourself doubting your own rationality by the time it is over. Director Jeff Nichols does a mesmerizing job of raising the stakes with such unpretentious practicality so that, while Shannon’s dream life might be full of science-fiction wonder, his problems as a result of his ever-loosening mind are rich with an intensely dramatic reality. Chastain stands out as his sympathetic but increasingly frustrated wife.