10 Cloverfield Lane

 photo ten_cloverfield_lane_zpse8bhkrgw.jpg photo starrating-3andahalfstars.jpgA woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) awakes from a car accident and finds herself in a concrete room chained to a wall with a saline IV in her arm. A heavy-set man named Howard (John Goodman) tells her that he is her solitary chance for survival. You see, it was he that “rescued” her and is now keeping her alive. Panicked, she tries to escape, but Howard sedates her. When she comes to, Howard explains that some kind of attack has already occurred in the world and the air up on the surface is now unbreathable. He speculates either the Russians, Koreans or maybe even aliens. His bunker is the only sanctuary left.

The title 10 Cloverfield Lane is supposed to recall the sci-fi monster movie Cloverfield from 2008. That picture was directed by Matt Reeves, written by Drew Goddard and produced by JJ Abrams and Bryan Burk. But just forget about any connection to that earlier picture. All of those guys are indeed back, as producers this time, but aside from some mutual personnel and the horror angle, this story has essentially nothing to do with that earlier production. Think of this as a spin-off of the Cloverfield universe. The sooner you let go of finding ties to that prior film, the more you’ll enjoy this one on its own terms.

If 10 Cloverfield Lane has a spiritual ancestor, it would be Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, the 1948 psychological thriller based on the 1929 play by Patrick Hamilton. This debut feature from director Dan Trachtenberg virtually takes place entirely in a single enclosed space underground. The success of this three-character chamber piece rests on the charisma of its principal players as they interact with one another. John Goodman is suitably creepy. He’s memorable in a rare dramatic role. Yet he’s so visually iconic in comedic portrayals that I never forgot that I was still watching John Goodman, the actor. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is an appealing presence as a woman in a stressful situation. She radiates a mix of helplessness and moxie that snares our full attention and compassion. A sympathetic cellar-mate named Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.) appears to be a fellow ally.

The atmosphere of this nail-bitter vacillates between a spirit of unease and relaxed camaraderie. The majority of the action is claustrophobic suspense that creates tension out of the unknown. What happened to the earth? Is life up there actually worse than their existence in the bunker? Can Howard be trusted? Questions of this variety fuel the narrative and warrant serious consideration as the drama plays out. We’ve seen this genre before. M. Night Shyamalan is a director that has built a career on this sort of thing. The fragments designed as a foundation on which to build a denouement that hopefully answers all of these questions and more.  The build-up is bit protracted, but don’t worry. Everything will indeed be explained by the time the credits roll. And let me affirm, I was more than satisfied by the resolution.

03-10-16

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21 Responses to “10 Cloverfield Lane”

  1. Nice review Mark. I enjoyed Cloverfield but felt even watching on a TV screen it was nauseating to see. I am interested in catching this but will probably wait for it to hit cable.

    • Despote the title, this has absolutely no connection to the earlier film. Rest assured the shaky camera style is gone. 10 Cloverfield Lane uses traditional cinematography.

  2. I loved everything especially John Goodman’s performance, until they threw in the obvious at the last fifteen minutes of the film. They shouldn’t have!

  3. I am pumped as all hell to see this. Great review, Mark.

  4. It’s all so very fun and exciting. Even if the last-half is a bit wacky. Nice review Mark.

  5. Nice Review Mark –

    I might be wrong but this seems like a cross between The 400 Days – a scifi thriller where a team of would be astronauts are placed into a sealed atmospheric room as in a simulated trip into space. Then they lose contacted with Mission Control and they come to believe that life (as we know it on earth) has ended. I reviewed this indie film not too long ago.

    And the connected comp would be the claustrophobic first half of Room – only without the kid.

    I’ve always liked Goodman and I have a good sized likiing for Winstead since seeing her in Alex of Venice which I also reviewed.

    I’ll give it a try at some point – but being scared in a movie theater is not something I look forward to.

    • You inspired me to to look up 400 Days as I was completely unaware if its existence. I appreciated your take, which was more positive than the decidedly negative reviews I encountered.

      I thought of Room as well but only because it takes place in a single environment. You could add Buried with Ryan Reynolds in there as well.

  6. Kind of a shame this has the Cloverfield name in it. I think unfairly perhaps, that it sets the wrong expectations. Barely has anything to do with its predecessor, which feels weird to say since little is in common with it.

    As you say though, if one goes in without expecting a carbon copy of that, this is a great, occasionally a little slower than I’d like though, slow burn thriller.

    • I didn’t read anything prior to watching so I must admit I was wondering how does this connect to the earler film?

      Cloverfield was a big hit ($80M U.S. gross with a $25M budget) so I think the producers thought let’s market the film that way. It doesn’t seem to have worked as this isn’t going to gross anywhere near that amount. However, it’s still a modest success.

  7. Great review Mark! I think I’ll check this out! My word of the day = moxie!

  8. Wasn’t sure what kind of movie this was gonna be. I loved the mystery of it all. One of those films you think you’ve figured out, then boom….you were kinda wrong. Loved that. 4stars.

  9. the ending wasn’t that satisfying for me but its still a good psychological thriller. i have yet to see Hitchcock’s Rope.

  10. I know Goodman is visually iconic, but he’s such a great actor I never have a problem with buying him in whatever role he’s in. I would definitely love to see him do creepy like he does in this movie. I haven’t seen Mary Elizabeth Winstead in a ton of films, although I usually like her whenever she pops up. The whole thing sounds suitably suspenseful for me. I’m happy to hear that everything is explained and that you were happy with its resolution. In that way it’s probably unlike most Shyamalan efforts.

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