- Posted by John Squires
- On March 10, 2016
- 0 Comments
- cloverfield, J.J. Abrams
While it has improved many aspects of our lives, the internet has also ruined others. When it comes to movies, for example, we know entirely too much about them before we ever get the chance to actually sit down and watch them. Things like set photos, script leaks, and spoiler-filled trailers continue to ensure that the element of surprise is a distant memory in the world of entertainment. But every once in a while, a movie comes along and reminds how much fun it was to know nothing before buying a ticket. Cloverfield was a great example of that, and so too is this year’s top secret “blood relative.”
Written by Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, and Damien Chazelle, 10 Cloverfield Lane was directed by Dan Trachtenberg and centers on Michelle, a woman who wakes up in an underground doomsday shelter in the wake of an accident. Her “captor,” a man by the name of Howard, insists that he saved her life, claiming that the outside world has been left uninhabitable by some sort of nuclear attack. In the shelter with them is Emmett, who firmly believes the stories that Michelle isn’t so sure of.
The big question, going into 10 Cloverfield Lane, is of course how exactly it connects to the 2008 monster movie it partially shares a title with. It’s a question fans of the found footage film have been pondering ever since we saw the first trailer for this pseudo-sequel just two months ago, and it’s one that I will not be answering here in this review. Like the secretive marketing that preceded it, the fun of 10 Cloverfield Lane is in discovering answers for yourself, so I can assure you I won’t spoil a thing.
Seriously. You can hit me over the head with a bottle of Swamp Pop if I do.
I hope that wasn’t a spoiler.
Though it opens with a sequence that takes place in the outside world – shortly before whatever happened, if anything even did happen – 10 Cloverfield Lane quickly locks you inside the confines of the fallout shelter, almost immediately thrusting you into the tense situation that Michelle finds herself in. The question of what’s really going on outside, if anything, lingers in the air for much of the film’s runtime, but what’s perhaps even more gripping about the film is what’s going on inside the shelter.
Masterfully played by John Goodman, an actor who has long deserved more appreciation than he often gets, Howard is a character as mysterious as the marketing that made 10 Cloverfield Lane such a compelling movie right out of the gate. Howard is the sort of conspiracy theorist who’s either the sanest person in the room or the craziest, and Goodman’s commanding performance ensures that you hang onto his every word. He’s sympathetic and terrifying in equal measure, and just when you think you’re starting to grasp what Howard’s all about, you realize – along with Michelle – that you have no idea.
The evolution of Howard’s character is really a perfect reflection of 10 Cloverfield Lane as a whole, as it’s like a puzzle that turns into a completely different puzzle each time a new piece is added. Throughout the course of her own personal room escape game, Michelle is continually discovering new clues that provide snippets of answers about what’s really going on, and we’re never privy to a single piece of information that she isn’t. This makes the film altogether thrilling, intense, and thoroughly gripping.
With the role of Michelle, Mary Elizabeth Winstead brings to the screen a heroine who would make Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor proud. No matter how dire her situation gets, she’s never anything less than determined to fight her way out and prevail, and her strength as a character adds an interesting layer to the proceedings. After all, since we don’t know whether Howard is the good guy or the bad guy, we’re not even sure if she should be putting up a fight – and that provides for some very tense moments.
Not only do you never know what to expect in 10 Cloverfield Lane but you also get the sense that literally anything is possible, and that makes it such an exciting film to watch. It’s the sort of movie that’s chock full of twists, turns, and surprises, and by the time the end credits roll across the screen, I think you’ll agree that you ended up in a place you never expected to find yourself. Thanks in no small part to a wonderfully mysterious marketing campaign, it’s a truly exhilarating experience from top to bottom.
I do believe the bar for franchise universe-building has just been raised.