10 Cloverfield Lane
Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, John Gallagher Jr. | Screenwriters: Josh Campbell & Matthew Stuecken and Damien Chazelle | Director: Dan Trachtenberg
After the Great American Monster experiment that was Cloverfield stomped and screeched its way across the big screen, moviegoers immediately pondered whether there would ever be a continuation of the creature’s destructive journey across a panicked United States. Time passed and interest waned as it usually does, until there were stirrings about another secret project JJ Abrams was cooking up while spearheading both The Force Awakens and Star Trek Beyond. It wasn’t until earlier this year that the clandestine enterprise was revealed with that name which hyped audiences eight years ago. That one distinguishing word, however, is exactly where the relation begins and ends. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a movie that may not have direct relation to the 2008 monster film, but it rightfully deserves your interest for its taut storytelling, creeping tone, and excellent portrayals by its small, yet talented cast.
Whatever you do, leave your expectations outside the theater. 10 Cloverfield Lane is as producers JJ Abrams, Bryan Burk, and Matt Reeves have mentioned numerous times across news services and the blogosphere in that it is not a direct sequel. In fact, Lane doesn’t take place in the same universe as the 2008 film from which the title is derived. Their intention is to make the Cloverfield franchise an anthology series, a platform that gives up-and-coming storytellers the freedom to lay their vision forth among a world of monsters, be them otherworldly or humanistic. Relative newcomer Dan Trachtenberg (with a shrewdly written script by Campbell, Stuecken, and Chazelle) has managed to weave a tense thriller that’s swimming with duplicity, suspicion, and sinister motivations, and ultimately culminates in a satisfying conclusion.
Our protagonist in this harrowing narrative is Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a woman who’s escaping a seemingly menacing ordeal with an abusive boyfriend, only to be thrust into a far more foreboding circumstance. Winstead is rightfully mistrusting of her new roomies and cannot believe the world has been irrevocably altered by a mysterious force in the little time she was unconscious. Although her doubts are quickly dispatched during a particularly grim scene, Michelle maintains her tenacity and desire to escape despite realizing the cramp, dingy space she currently rests her head is probably her best case scenario.
Her ‘savior’ is Howard, whose paranoia and negative outlook of the world is only surpassed by his excessive levels of preparedness for the inevitable apocalypse. Portrayed by the legendary John Goodman, the actor is able to squeeze out every ounce of mania and instability from the role that few others could. The third member of their party, Emmett (John Gallagher Jr), is Howard’s neighbor and acts as an intermediary between the two. Whilst Michelle is understandably leery of her surroundings, Howard is equally zealous and fearful about the death that awaits them above. He has charged himself as guardian of the two lives he was able to save from the calamity that’s unfolding across the planet. In time, Emmett and Michelle sense Howard’s protective nature is a shroud that conceals his violent desperation for companionship. Clues strewn throughout the bunker are finally discerned by their more critical eyes as to the outcome of its previous occupants.
As 10 Cloverfield Lane unfolds like a homage of Hitchcockian intrigue, it becomes quite clear the real evil may not be what’s outside.
Few films are able to achieve a genuine sense of claustrophobia and ill ease and cleverly project similar responses among its audience. Trachtenberg – with cinematographer Jeff Cutter and editor Stefan Grube – make use of every inch of the cramped bunker, eliciting a feeling of utter despair by their tight camera work. If there truly is a global catastrophe occurring (which appears to be the case by the occasional thunderous rumblings), the already diminished dispositions of the trio begin to whittle away as they realize their lives may be confined indefinitely in a 500 square foot underground bunker. The more they begin to unravel, the faster the pace becomes and it attacks your brain with such dizzying speed until those final moments. Those final moments…
2016 has been and up and down year for major studio films so far, but it’s safe to say 10 Cloverfield Lane has all the makings of an enduring cult film. Trachtenberg is off to an excellent start in directing, creating a grisly story that’s far more surprising and gratifying than many cinephiles would expect.
10 Cloverfield Lane
It’s partly understandable that audiences felt underwhelmed after viewing Cloverfield in 2008, given the massive hype train it had months before its release. Don’t let any disdain felt for the monster film skew your interest in seeing 10 Cloverfield Lane. This small-budget feature came out of nowhere and did what most movies cannot these days during previews: save the best parts for the actual theater-going experience. If you liked what you saw in its ambiguous teaser, the rest of the movie will not disappoint. Dan Trachtenberg skillfully crafted a palpable thriller under the guise of an overwhelming, unseen menace when – as the poster states – “monsters come in many forms”. Since there was practically no expectation for 10 Cloverfield Lane’s release, audiences should come away from the film with their hopes restored in the burgeoning series.
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