Many a time I’ve watched a film and found myself hoping some kind of devastating apocalyptic scenario is forthcoming. Usually, it’s some generic blockbuster where characters are absent and people are no more than disaster fodder. So it’s somewhat confusing when you find yourself wishing such a thing on characters you’ve come to care about.
Michael Shannon is phenomenal in this tale of a man plagued by dreams of devastation and betrayal. Convinced these are visions of a forthcoming storm, he keeps it to himself, but puts his wife and child at great risk, in order to protect them. But as certain as he is that this storm is coming, he is also aware that there is a history of mental illness in his family, and secretly pursues that option also. No mean feat for some blue-collar hick in Smalltown USA. Of course, it is said that one of the signs of sanity is that you are aware you may be insane…
The film is nicely paced, and the cast are superb, Jessica Chastain in particular- her second superb performance of the year, as in The Help. In the hands of a different director, this would be a special effects extravaganza, with every dream being some increasingly awesome set-piece. However, writer/director Jeff Nichols has taken the wiser route of showing the first few- and they are impressive- then leaving the rest to our imaginations. Instead, we see his tossing and turning, increasing anxiety and paranoia, and credit must be given for keeping the character sympathetic when he could have just as easily been written off as a fool.
If I had a criticism, it’s only that the very beginning was a little slow, and despite feeling completely invested in the story, I didn’t find myself welling up at any time. However, I did find myself thinking that this is one of those films that would be make-or-break, depending on its ending. For me, they got it spot-on.