The Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rates it at 92%.
I didn’t know what to expect from this film, which is generally a good way to approach narrative. I hadn’t seen Michael Shannon prior to this, and only gleaned the obvious from the title and poster – it involves a storm and shelter.
My overall impressions of the film are mixed – I’m still trying to work out if I actually enjoyed it. The film invests most in the telling of its story and its focus on the main character. There was no big budget, exotic setting and no special effects extravaganza that you might well expect from a thriller about a large storm.
This movie is uncomfortable, unpredictable but also quite masterful with an outstanding performance from Michael Shannon (and Jessica Chastain) without which it may well have fallen flat. If you’re looking for some pleasant escapism, a formulaic movie to snuggle up with and unwind after a hard week at the office, this is probably not the one for you.
I struggled with aspects of the narrative style and the final scene left me exclaiming “What!??” However, the non-conformist shape of the story mostly works. The film is devoid of the kind of narrative clues usually dropped to the audience to guide them along. Things could go either of several ways. I guess that’s why they call it a ‘thriller’, but you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a kind of taunt.
The ‘conclusion’ leave so much in limbo after the long build up. Some might call this kind of ‘non-ending’ for poor story telling, but this film defines it’s own sub-genre. Like a song unfinished, you think back over the whole and reflect, which I imagine is the idea.
No story is without a purpose in the telling. So what’s the message in this one?
The film explores a journey of struggle, doubt, conflict and opposition. Curtis (Shannon) believes he has been shown visions of an apocalyptic future, a mega storm from which he must protect his family. Is he a lunatic or a prophet? Does his family actually need to be protected from him? We don’t find out until the very end.
The film is not about God or religion per se. Indeed, we are shown that Curtis is not a church going man. Nonetheless, the alert will recognise layers of intertextuality drawing on the traditions of prophetic figures, biblical and otherwise who stand outside the norms of institution and convention and deliver their message to an unresponsive audience.
Misunderstood, and often considered insane and dangerous, the prophet is vindicated in the end.
What, in my opinion is the best scene of the film – a masterpiece of acting and directing- is also its most programmatic in this regard. (You can view it here but don’t do it if you plan to watch the film some time, because that may spoil it for you.)
There is a storm coming, like nothing you have ever seen, and not a one of you is prepared for it!!
Whatever else the film may be saying, it seems to carry a sombre warning: when the prophets speak – if we are able to recognise them – we ignore their warnings at our peril.
This is a good film. I think I need to watch it again.