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10 Cloverfield Lane: Movie Review

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1CL1When the J.J. Abrams produced Cloverfield which landed in theaters back in 2008 it was a film shrouded in mystery. Details were released in increments and no one fully knew what to expect right up until its release. This was no small feat in the internet age, where these days trailers get release dates, and even back then people gobbled up every detail of a movie that they could get their hands on months before seeing the finished product. This goes double for genre fare like Cloverfield. For me, personally, the secrecy surrounding Cloverfield backfired a bit. My expectations were probably too high, and as a result I was ultimately put off by the shaky cam and mediocre character development. If you’re not going to get me to invest emotionally, I’m going to need more monster. Over the years, I’ve revisited Cloverfield a number of times and the film has grown on me. I’ve always actually respected how it was marketed-it just needed to be a better movie to live up to the hype that the mystery created. It’s also a much easier film to enjoy with the realization that it is not a complete story, but rather a part of a much larger whole.  So, all these years later and out of the blue, along comes J.J. Abrams again with 10 Cloverfield Lane. Equally mysterious, this supposed non-sequel distant relative of Cloverfield again has audiences questioning just what is really going on. Is this another part of a grand vision or is it something altogether its own? Can 10 Cloverfield Lane live up to the hype in a way the original couldn’t?

 

1cl2In 10 Cloverfield Lane, Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Michelle, a girl haunted by her past and unable to face conflict, who finds herself trapped in a doomsday bunker with an unhinged conspiracy theorist Howard (John Goodman) and friendly yokel Emmitt (John Gallagher Jr.) after a horrendous car crash that left her for dead in a ditch on the side of the interstate. Howard insists that the outside world has met with uncertain calamity, and with good reason to believe him Michelle and Emmitt go about making the best of a bad situation. Once the claustrophobic nature of their situation becomes too much to bear, the group begins to come apart at the seams as motives are questioned and fear takes hold. Is Howard their savior or their captor? What is happening outside the bunker? To say any more would be to say too much.

10 Cloverfield Lane is a taut thriller told in suffocating confines. Four rooms and a staircase make up the majority of the setting and as the characters interact and then attempt to move without being seen the tension is palatable. John Goodman turns in an exceptional performance, going from endearing to terrifying with great ease. This film owes most of its success to his performance. The other players have an easy chemistry given their predicament and Winstead, who has often come across as wooden in other roles, deserves credit for showing some real depth, juggling various emotional states deftly.1cl3

Aside from the acting, director Dan Trachtenberg manages to use some great tricks with camera angles and sharp close-ups to even further enforce the terms of the characters’ confinement. All in all, 10 Cloverfield Lane keeps you on the edge of your seat, for even when things are at their best they are always a bit askew, and you dread yet anticipate the moment the other shoe will drop.

1cl3It probably takes someone of Abrams’ resume to get something like this made. It’s unorthodox and more than a bit out there for something that plays so well within reality. While it may not exactly hide from you what’s happening all the time, it dares you to predict an unlikely outcome. This type of screenplay has undoubtedly been written many times before but with too heavy a hand, and it demands the kind of vision Hollywood often lacks to take a chance on it. That chance is taken here, though, and 10 Cloverfield Lane delivers on its promises.

 

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
Director:  Dan Trachtenberg
Studio:  Paramount
Genre:  Suspense, Sci-Fi, Action
MPAA:  PG-13
Release Date:  March 11th, 2016
Author:  Steven Hanning

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