There’s something about the word “review” that gives me pause. I’m by no means an industry professional. I just love movies, and I’ve watched a great deal of them. I prefer the term “analysis,” which implies that I take a subjective look at a film/TV show/game/whatever, and provide my own interpretation of the material.
I won’t necessarily be doing this with 10 Cloverfield Lane, the latest movie from Bad Robot productions, that seemed to materialize out of thin air. In a surprise announcement, J.J. Abrams unveiled the first trailer to the world less than two months before it would actually hit theaters. It’s unsure yet if this form of guerilla marketing will pay off, but it definitely got me excited to see it as soon as it dropped. You can check out the trailer here, if you have yet to see it (courtesy of Movieclips Trailers):
Technically, the movie is just releasing today, and I don’t want to spoil too much. Much of what makes 10 Cloverfield Lane an exciting and thrilling experience relies heavily on misdirection and surprise.
Because of the nature of this movie, and its super-fresh release date, I’ll do my best to remain completely spoiler-free. If you’re still nervous about spoilers, scroll down to the “final thoughts” section to read a brief summation.
For those who aren’t aware, 10 Cloverfield Lane is not necessarily a sequel to 2008’s found-footage western Kaiju Monster masterpiece that shares its namesake. That’s right, I said it: masterpiece. I personally LOVED Cloverfield when it came out. It did something that most monster movies rarely make an effort to do. It was a much more personal story, forcing the perspective on a group of young adults still finding themselves, as the struggle to get the hell out of dodge as the world is burning all around them. You rarely see the major threat for most of the movie, relying on camera tricks and stellar performances to fill in the gaps. You can make similar comparisons to this newest film from the Cloverfield universe, only if you’re looking at it with a very different lens.
That’s mostly because 10 Cloverfield Lane’s monster this time is in the form of man itself, which proves just as terrifying than any giant beast that may be lurking in the darkness.
10 Cloverfield Lane, before anything else — is a thriller that explores what mankind is capable of when it is plagued by fear, paranoia, or mental illness. About 90-95% of the movie takes place in a claustrophobic underground fallout shelter that houses our main characters. Throughout the film, we’re exposed to the unease and tension our main protagonist Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead — Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, The Thing) is facing when being held inside against her will with a pair of strangers who insist the world she once knew is now over.
Michelle spends a great deal of the movie struggling with whether or not to believe the things that Howard (John Goodman — Argo, The Big Lebowski) and Emmet (John Gallagher Jr. — The Newsroom, Jonah Hex) insist are true. That her family is doomed and all hope is lost. To survive, they are forced to stay locked in the bunker together for “one year — maybe two” until it’s once again safe to emerge.
All three of the major actors in the film do an excellent job with their given characters. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is great as Michelle — a frightened woman who has spent too much of her life being pushed around and running away. John Gallagher Jr., adds just the right amount of comic relief as the fumbling Emmet, who at first unquestioningly accepts the supposed apocalypse. It’s John Goodman though, who steals the show as Howard —the stern and eccentric man who saved Michelle from a car wreck and built the bunker in which our characters are housed. You spend a great deal of the movie unsure of Howard’s intentions, mostly because Goodman excels at disarming you with his charm and warm nature. Maybe it’s because I spent a lot of time watching Roseanne growing up, but it makes me always want to trust and believe in this guy. There are some times you truly believe he has everyone’s best interests at heart, and others where he will chillingly fly off the handle and make you question everything about him. Goodman kills it in this movie.
I don’t want too spoil too much about this movie, suffice to say that it is much more similar to Stephen King’s Misery, than it is to Godzilla or King Kong. 10 Cloverfield Lane is about isolation, and what it does to the human spirit. Maybe with a sprinkling of disaster and crisis layered on.
You don’t have to be a fan of Cloverfield to appreciate the newest entry in the franchise. My wife, for instance — HATED Cloverfield. She thought the found footage approach was gimmicky, and she wanted to see more of the action. Understandable, I suppose — though it’s easier to feel that way now, when found footage thrillers and horror movies are practically a genre all to themselves these days. With 10 Cloverfield Lane by contrast, she was on the edge of her seat the entire time. There’s just a constant state of unease and tension you get when watching this movie that is quite special.
Dan Trachtenberg did an awesome job on his first big feature outing (and with only a 5 million dollar budget, no less), establishing tone, misdirecting the audience, and showing us just enough that things don’t ever get too ridiculously out there. I’m excited to see more of what this guy can do.
In a world arguably over-saturated with explosions, team-ups, and cheap gross-out humor, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a nail-biting breath of fresh air. It isn’t plagued by unnecessary exposition, and doesn’t waste time laying on a hefty layer of tension. The performances are great, most notably from John Goodman, who excels at being equal parts inviting and chilling. The director even does a fantastic job of pulling focus where it needs to be and never revealing too much until it is absolutely crucial to do so. Just don’t go in expecting a monster movie. 10 Cloverfield Lane is first and foremost a Thriller, so don’t get your hopes up for crumbling skyscrapers and thundering menace. This is a much more low-key experience than the original, albeit with just as much (if not more) tension. Do yourself a favor and check it out in theaters!
If you haven’t seen 10 Cloverfield Lane yet, go see it! If you have, let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks for reading!