Top 20 Films of the 2010s–#13

16 Dec

By Tanner Smith

Continuing my countdown of my top 20 favorite films of the decade, here’s a recap: 20) Mad Max: Fury Road, 19) Fruitvale Station, 18) Hugo, 17) Parasite, 16) Spotlight, 15) Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, 14) Midnight Special…from one Jeff Nichols masterpiece to another, my #13 choice is…

13) TAKE SHELTER (2011)

In the fall of 2011, my family and I drove three hours from small-town Manila (in Northeast Arkansas, whose cinemas rarely showed limited-release indie films) to big-city Little Rock (Central Arkansas, where just about every indie film played in Arkansas) just to see Take Shelter for two reasons: 1) its writer-director Jeff Nichols was from Arkansas and he was already practically a filmmaking legend by that point, and 2) I was a big fan of Nichols’ previous film (and debut) “Shotgun Stories” and I eagerly awaited to see what he would do next. Was it worth it?

It’s on this list, isn’t it? It was definitely worth it. We were all blown away by this film.

“Take Shelter” is a great blend of family drama and psychological thriller with a possible-apocalyptic vibe running throughout. It also features my favorite performance from Michael Shannon as a man who doesn’t know if he’s predicting a terrible storm coming to destroy everything he holds dear or if he’s going crazy. The actions he takes for the sake of caution make for an interesting character study—one that enthralls me each time I watch it.

This is an effectively disturbing psychological thriller about how fear encapsulates a man who may slowly but surely be going insane, as he has recurring nightmares about a terrible storm and even has visions of it while he’s awake. They push him to the point of building a tornado shelter in his backyard to protect his family, in case these visions are accurate warnings of a future apocalypse. The film is handled extraordinarily well, showing us the life of this man (played brilliantly by Shannon) and his family, giving us a little background so we’re not sure what to think at the moment, and further making us ask the question of what’s real and what’s not. By the time it gets to a point where Shannon wants to know if the subject of his fears are truly happening, I got chills.

Now…what about the ending? Fans of this film have discussed the ambiguity of the final scene–what does it mean? What happens? And so on. After eight years, I’m still not entirely sure of it. But it’s still very interesting to think about. All I know is that the characters know what’s happening and Nichols also knew what was happening–that’s good enough for me…I guess.

“Take Shelter” was the best film I saw in 2011 and it’s one of my favorite movies, period. It’s inspired, unpredictable, chilling, wonderfully-acted, well-executed, intriguing, thought-provoking, and one of Jeff Nichols’ absolute best.

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