Hey look, it’s another one of those movies no one has ever heard of!
However, you may have heard of the now not-so-new HBO series Boardwalk Empire, and if you’ve seen it then you know Michael Shannon, and you also know that Michael Shannon is a g’damn monolith of an actor. That should be enough to make you want to see this movie. Add in a bit of psychological and familial turmoil, a dash of the supernatural, and you’ve got a guaranteed box-office failure of an Oscar film. Of course it’s not really showing on a huge number of screens so it was never going to make much money anyway.
Michael Shannon is a good, loving father to a cute little deaf girl, and a good, loving husband to that beautiful woman from The Tree of Life. He’s got a solid job and good friends (one of which happens to be another guy from Boardwalk Empire). Life is good. Then the movie starts. He’s plagued by intensely real dreams of a dreadful storm that changes people and destroys everything he knows; the dreams begin to affect his waking life, and he starts taking drastic measures not very unlike those in a certain story-arc from Six Feet Under. The film follows him as he grapples with the very high possibility that he’s becoming schizophrenic and the irresistible urge to prepare for destruction, all while trying to preserve and protect his all-important family.
While it is a very slow movie, there are several moments of great intensity that mirror (to a less violent extent) the explosive scenes in Drive. Lots of great, languid shots of storm clouds and swarming bird flocks help to convey the doom descending on Shannon’s mind. A very large component of the film is the family aspect though; this guy really wants to be a good parent and hates what his mind is doing to his ability to do it.
Of course, we never really know if he’s really going crazy or if he’s a prophet. The final scene leaves it open for interpretation, much like Inception. I’m not sure what I think. I tend to like more superhuman/natural stuff so I guess I lean toward the latter, but it really could go either way.
I wasn’t quite as impressed with Shannon’s performance as I have been with his work in Boardwalk Empire. He’s much more human here. Still, it’s being lauded as one of the greatest of the year, and I can’t really argue with that given what I’ve seen. It’s a very good movie, just a bit slow.