Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Cast Headliners : Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman
Original Release Date : March 11th, 2016
10 Cloverfield Lane is an incredibly interesting situation. The movie, originally seen on release schedules and in the industry as “The Cellar” and “Valencia” seemed to be an original idea about a man trapping someone in a basement. No franchise connections, no supernatural connections, little else knowng besides Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman's involvement. Well in typical fashion of JJ Abrams (producer only here), it was revealed at the last minute to be part of the Cloverfield franchise. But fortunately for it, what that means is very little as its a film that stands very much on its own unique merits for the most part. Compared to the wonky first-person camera and monster movie destruction of that this film is a extremely more contained, better looking, and overall film than that.
The film starts as Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) leaves her partner and life behind to head off into the countryside. The film quickly shifts from dark to shocking as she become involved in a car accident and wakes up locked away in the deep underground cell of Howard (John Goodman) who resides there along with Emmett (John Gallagher Jr). Michelle is terrified and knows little of what's going on, as does the audience. If this situation wasn't tense enough, Howard soon claims that the world has suffered a apocalyptic event and the three of them must now survive in his shelter. But what's unknown is if he's telling the truth.
The movie essentially just has these three character's for its entire duration, which makes for a dramatic, dark, and isolated set of circumstances. Each is strongly defined on their own. MEW does solidly as Michelle, who shows a resourceful and eventually even heroic side over the course of the film as she goes from captive to more. Emmett offers more of a average joe, non-questioning role in this. Their interplay is pretty good, and then things are raised the more Howard is given a chance to “Shine.”
Goodman's Howard is an great , unique, dark presence to the film. It's very much outside of type for him, and he offers a scene chewing role as his crazed conspiracy theorist. He's crazy, loony, fearsome, and creepy all at once. To delve more would give away spoilers that are so key to this experience, but suffice to say Howard is definitely unforgettable and a enigma and foil to the other two residents in the bunker. This film does a much better job at making one care about its characters, whether good or evil, then many in the genre and especially its predecessor. Whether feeling stressed or even the natural and surprising chuckle, it all works solidly.
The scenes and plot progression make for a intense set of possible lies and close calls. The situation seems to change every few moments as more possible truths are revealed and things happen. The pacing makes a pretty delicate blend between dramatic arguments typical of the genre and chances to delve a bit deeper emotionally or humorously. This is aided by solid, and thankfully normal, directing by Dan Trachetnberg. Perhaps one gripe is that even with this new perspective some things remain a bit unclear at times in frenetic sequences, but perhaps that's intentional.
While most of the film is a interesting and creepy descent into a web of lies and human madness, it must be said that a portion of it is very different, from whence it gets the “Cloverfield” in its name. Without revealing specifics, it nearly feels like a different movie and perhaps a bit “tacked on.” But only slightly so, and that's due to its...contents. But it fits into the climatic events around which it occurs and by the point it occurs in the narrative, its a natural and exciting fit.
For a movie with a small set of characters in basically a single location, 10 Cloverfield Lane packs a pretty big punch. It blows away the franchise it is tacked onto, and sets itself as its own identity. From its heroes to its , surprisingly human, scary opposing forces its a solid set of lies and intense situations. 8.1 out of 10