Written by J. Weagle
Monsters come in many forms.
It’s very difficult to really discuss the pros and cons of 10 Cloverfield Lane without getting into spoiler territory but I’m going to try. It can be a tough film to sum up easily despite the, for the most part, simplistic nature of it. The name alone would have us believe it is connected to the giant monster found footage movie Cloverfield(2008), which is still one of my all time favorites of the genre. Though it has almost zero ties to that film I do understand why it is being called a blood relative. It’s a film that came out of left field both in terms of how it was announced and the execution of the story itself, which I both enjoyed and disliked.
This is not a spectacle film full of gigantic set pieces, bloody screams and special effects. 10 Cloverfield Lane takes a different approach and much like horror of the 1970’s it is a spectacle of tension, suspense and bewilderment instead. It’s because of this that I can’t help but to applaud the movie. It takes a big risk in never fully giving movie-goers clean cut answers to any of the mysteries it opens up. That’s a brave move in a world filled with answers at your fingertips, and much like it’s cousin the original Cloverifeld film – half the fun becomes trying to piece the backstory together yourself.
From the moment the film starts it leaves us guessing. We are introduced to a woman we know very little about named Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who is escaping her life and in the early stages of the movie gets involved in a car crash. She wakes up a few days later to find herself in an underground bunker with Howard (John Goodman), a large and crazed eyed loner standing above her. He tells her that she can’t leave, because some sort of disaster has happened and it’s not safe to go outside. Finding herself alone with Howard and another man named Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) she’ll eventually learn that yes, monsters do come in many forms.
This is where the tension is, the unknowing of who we can trust and who we can’t. The interactions between the characters, as it comes off very clearly that at least one person in that bunker may have some issues. We never truly get any clear answers as the actions unfold as to what the definite history is to each of these characters but given enough structure we can piece it all together. I do believe it’s the mystery of the characters that makes 10 Cloverfield Lane so entertaining and wish that more films would do a better job at respecting its audience in the way this film does.
The acting is superb from top to bottom. Goodman is about the only man alive who could play this character so well, somehow managing to be both terrifying and sympathetic. There is no doubt he steals the show and takes the drivers seat pushing the film forward at a really solid pace. That’s not to say the other (two) actors aren’t fantastic as both Winstead who is impossible to take your eyes off of is remarkable, and Gallagher becomes the heart of the film.
Everything I have mentioned so far has been glowing praise for what is a tense thriller. However it’s the last act of the film that was a let down in many ways. There is nothing wrong with how it all goes down, but I couldn’t help but feel a little unimpressed with how it was handled, which becomes a big issue considering the entirety of the movie is dependent on what will happen at the end (not unlike a M. Night Shyamalan film). Again let me be clear, it is in no way bad, just a bit disappointing and dare I say a cop out.
10 Cloverfield Lane is most definitely a movie that you should see, with the less you know about it the better. It’s a tense thriller that is expertly crafted by first time filmmaker Dan Trachtenberg, with three incredible performances. It’s the sort of film that doesn’t happen often, one that tells us nothing about it going in, and tells us even less when the end credits start to roll. I respect that sort of brave film making, I only wish the ending would have shared some of that same braveness from a story perspective.