10 Cloverfield Lane Review

Posted: March 30, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson 10c_1-sht_online_teaser_alt

We live in an age where we seem to know everything about a film long before it’s even out. Sure, indie releases can come from nowhere and surprise, but mainstream movies often have concept art, set photos, and trailers released months, sometimes years, before the product actually hits theaters. This is a big part of what made 10 Cloverfield Lane’s marketing such a treat. No one even new this was movie was in development when the trailer dropped in March but the fact that the film was slated for a release just two months later was even more enticing. And then of course is there was the fact that this was marketed as a sort of sequel to Cloverfield, a film I’m very fond of.

As it turns out, the film has very little to do with the original Cloverfield outside of hints of a science-fiction high concept and certain broad thematic overtones. On the one hand, I do think there is more potential to explore in the world of the original film, but at the same time, I’m glad J.J. Abrams has opted to do something more creative with this franchise than recycle the first film. More importantly, the story at the heart of 10 Cloverfield Lane is a good one. As the film starts, we are introduced to a young woman named Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) after she breaks up with her boyfriend and drives to an unknown destination. On her way, Michelle is in a car accident and passes out. Later, she wakes up chained in the underground cellar of a man named Howard (John Goodman). Howard is a conspiracy theorist who has built this large bunker and stocked it with supplies in the event of some sort of disaster. He tells Michelle that some sort of attack has occurred which has left the surface uninhabitable and that she cannot leave. Michelle is naturally suspicious of this, but the bunker’s other dweller, Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr) confirms that an attack has taken place.

It’s hard to talk about 10 Cloverfield Lane without going into spoiler territory so I’m going to be tiptoeing through a lot of this review. What I can say is that while the film does have shades of thriller, horror and science-fiction, the bulk of the narrative is actually a chamber piece involving just a few select characters. On this level, the film works very well. The characters are strong and Mary Elizabeth Winstead makes for an effective lead, but the real treat here is John Goodman. Goodman is a great ability to teeter between a kind gentleness and cruel dominance and he uses that to excellent effect here. The character is also filmed either in ways which emphasize his imposing status, or in ways which make him seem like a more pleasant domestic figure. Howard himself is the most interesting character in the film and while I do think the script makes it a bit too obvious what type of person Howard is early on, it’s interesting to watch his character unfold.

The film also works as a horror movie of sorts as we watch the tension rise over the course of the film. The script effectively dolls out information and paces the highs and lows well. Director Dan Trachtenberg shoots the film very well and while the set-pieces are inherently low key, Trachtenberg stages them well. This is certainly a strong and assured debut for Trachtenberg, but the film lacks a certain spark. With the original Cloverfield, director Matt Reeves used a specific film style to maximum effect and really distinguished both himself and the film. 10 Cloverfield Lane doesn’t really have anything like that. Still, the direction is in no way wrong so much as it is simply conventional. Where the film does go awry is in its climactic 20 minutes. Again, I will be avoiding spoilers, but I will say is the film tries to both be somewhat ambiguous while still providing some concrete answers and in the process fails at both. I wish this section had either been drastically reduced, or expanded and explored in a more interesting way. What is more problematic is the set-piece which accompanies these final moments, which is essentially pointless and doesn’t fit the tone of the rest of the film at all.

So in summation, what is there to say about 10 Cloverfield Lane? Well, I certainly enjoyed my time with it. This is an engaging film that’s well acted (particularly from Goodman) and generally made in a professional and slick manner. And aside from some minor gripes and my disappointment with the ending, this also isn’t a film I have any major problems with. And yet, my enthusiasm for the film is only moderate. At the end of the day, this is just a little too ordinary for me to really get excited about. While the original Cloverfield is a film that excited me a lot and one that I often went back too, I can’t imagine really seeking this out for future watches, nor do I think 10 Cloverfield Lane will stick with me. Still, this is certainly a respectable example of mainstream filmmaking and is certainly worth a look for any moviegoer looking for some thrills.

B

Comments
  1. ianthecool says:

    Sounds like we’re much on the same page here.

  2. Dan O. says:

    Good review PG. It starts off exciting and fun, even if it does get a tad silly by the end.

  3. polarbears16 says:

    Definitely enjoyed this movie. Great performances, and it was definitely a very efficient and tension building script. Ending was just okay.

    Great review!

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