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10 Cloverfield Lane – Review

 
 
Overview
 

Release Date: 11 March 2016 [USA]
 
Director: Dan Trachtenberg
 
Writer: Josh Campbell - Matthew Stuecken [Story] - Josh Campbell - Matthew Stuecken - Damien Chazelle [Screenplay]
 
Cast: John Goodman - Mary Elizabeth Winstead - John Gallagher Jr.
 


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Posted March 22, 2016 by

 
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10 Cloverfield Lane Review:

In an era where movies are announced years before they are released, getting a movie completely by surprise is really something. The trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane dropped with Michael Bay’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldier of Benghazi, and nobody knew what was going on. Was it a sequel? Spin off? Expanded universe? Cloverfield came out in 2008, eventually making seven times its $25 million budget (according to Box Office Mojo). Personally, I wouldn’t have considered “Cloverfield” to be a brand name worth cashing in on. The surprise trailer did a lot to create some extra intrigue, more so than a traditional marketing plan would have done.

10 Cloverfield Lane comes to us from newcomer director Dan Trachtenberg, off a screenplay by Josh Campbell, Matthew Stucken, and Whiplash’s Damien Chazelle. Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) stars alongside John Goodman (Monsters Inc.) and John Gallagher Jr. (The Newsroom). The film originated as a film called The Cellar, but was readapted into a spin-off of Cloverfield when it was acquired by Bad Robot.

Michelle (Winstead) is fleeing from a bad relationship. Her vehicle gets hit by a truck, and she passes out. She wakes up in some kind of cell, chained to the wall. After she tries to figure out what’s going on, Howard (Goodman) comes to tell her that there was some sort of attack. He rescued her from the accident, and now she’ll survive whatever is going on above ground. There’s another occupant in the bunker named Emmett (Gallagher Jr.), who seems relieved that they have been saved.

10 Cloverfield Lane functions as a three-person thriller, with almost all the action occurring in the few rooms. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, and John Gallagher Jr. are exceptional, offering layered performances. The three characters settle into a makeshift harmonious lifestyle. There is, however, tension brewing under the surface.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead presents Michelle as a resourceful but scared woman. She’s always thinking and planning, and remains an active protagonist even in scenes where she does not have much dialogue. Every move of hers is calculated. By centering the film on her, Trachtenberg keeps every sequence in a limbo because the audience is guessing what is happening just like she is. The set up asks a lot of questions, and the story answers them slowly.

The director I was reminded most of during the film is Alfred Hitchcock. Like the erstwhile Master of Suspense, Trachtenberg manages to direct the audience into seeing what he wants them to see. Trachtenberg stages a number of suspenseful scenes like Hitchcock would, with a goal and a few obstacles. Of course, there is the “woman on the run” aspect, which brought to mind Psycho. This film isn’t so much scary as it is viscerally tense and nerve wrecking. Each moment has layers, and every line of dialogue is coded. Trachtenberg executes the suspense with confidence and style, offering askew angles and cool camerawork.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead is phenomenal in the role, and she’s supported by equally good actors. John Goodman twits his appealing, everyman persona into a menacing threat. The film plays with his character—is he correct or just crazy? Or both? The character is deeper than he seems at first and Goodman touches on those nuances quite masterfully. John Gallagher Jr. is also pretty great, providing some emotional depth to what could just be a wacky side character. He and Winstead have some of the most affecting scenes in the film.

Some viewers might have some criticisms about the ending, and those opinions are valid. While the final sequences are all well shot, and delicately crafted, they do leave something to be desired. The film’s origins as a standalone thriller betray the last twenty minutes or so. I could tell how the film was reshaped into fitting the “Cloverfield” brand. For me, it’s not a fatal flaw. I still found the entire film enjoyable. But it ends up feeling a little basic and dampers the high-octane originality of the previous 80 minutes.

10 Cloverfield Lane is a nail-biting thriller that is filmed imaginatively. With a trio of intense performances, and some chilling scenes, it’s a film that will satisfy those looking for a good thriller. With some loose but important ties to the 2008 film Cloverfield, the works as standalone while also satisfying those looking to connect the dots.

 

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Manish Mathur
@HippogriffRider
Mathur & The Marquee
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