Directed by: Dan Trachtenberg
Written by: Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, Damien Chazelle
Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, John Gallagher Jr.
Runtime: 103 min
Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) suffers a car accident and wakes up in a bunker, discovering that she has been "rescued" by Howard (John Goodman). He keeps her from leaving by emphasizing that the world is no longer habitable following an attack on the planet.
This is the second movie of the Cloverfield franchise and Dan Trachtenberg's big film debut, produced by the great J.J. Abrams.
I feel like Cloverfield is a very underrated film. A lot of people didn't even saw it and they still decided to watch 10 Cloverfield Lane. Truthfully, you can do that and your movie experience will not change at all. Even though it is, in fact, part of the franchise, I can only find one and one only connection to the first one. I will discuss this one detail after my rating since it has a major spoiler for Cloverfield and a minor spoiler for the one I am going to review now.
I love claustrophobic horror thrillers! I love when the film instantly makes me feel at the edge of my seat, ten minutes after it starts. Dan Trachtenberg's big movie debut does that for the entire runtime. The screenplay is especially intriguing and mysterious, which captivates me from the very start.
The mystery surrounding the state of the planet and Howard's mental condition is so well manipulated, raising the tension and the suspense levels extremely present. There is always something new, there is not one misplaced scene (as we know, J.J. Abrams does not waste one single shot) and everything has its purpose whether that is a line of dialogue, an action or even just a shot of a bookshelf.
On such a confined space, it is unbelievable what a first-time film director can accomplish. He is able to provide new feelings and fresh scenes after one hour in the same freaking living room. I admire the camera angles and the extensive use of visual storytelling (once again, I bet JJ has his hands on this). The editing is seamless and the tone is very well-balanced. A practical setting elevates the realistic cinematography and the subtle score helps to increase the amount of suspense.
As for the cast, they are the real stars of the movie. Mary Elizabeth Winstead has her career-best performance. She is incredibly compelling and everything she does, she does it flawlessly. Her character is a remarkably unconventional one, having in mind the cliche dumb characters in films like this. They always do what they are not supposed to and the audience is always ahead of them.
Not Michelle. She is extremely smart and she is way ahead of the viewers! There are so many twists and turns due to her craftiness and intelligence during tense circumstances. Her backstory contradicts her behavior once she is in that bunker, which proves how much the character had to change in order to overcome her situation.
However, John Goodman might be the absolute standout. He is just perfect. He needs to do something a lot of actors struggle with: insert doubt into the audience's minds. Howard is someone that I never know whether if he is crazy or if he is actually a rational guy. In a scene, he seems completely insane but right in the next one, he does or says something notably clever.
It is impossible to understand if he is telling the truth or if something is up. Undoubtedly, this is due to Goodman's terrific performance and also due to the brilliant script that he and everyone else received. John Gallagher Jr. (Emmett) is the third person living in the bunker and even though he is fairly well-developed, he is only there to serve the story (he is even connected to the moment that changes the course of it). Good display from Gallagher.
The first act is fantastic and the second act is phenomenal. The beginning of the third act is enthusiastic, but its ending is really abrupt. This is going to be a big issue for most people. If someone is not paying attention to everything that happens in the first two-thirds of the movie (every line of dialogue, every sound, every shot of an object), the ending is going to even make people hate this film because they will feel that it does not make sense.
To those people, I recommend you to stop and think about it. Think about the movie and remember everything that happened until the beginning of the third act. If you do this with no anger clouding your judgment, then you will surely understand what Trachtenberg and his team wanted to deliver. Nevertheless, it comes very quickly and I feel that the way they executed it, is asking too much of me to let pass some line-crossing stuff, even though it is a science fiction film.
Overall, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a fantastic "sequel" (if I can call it that) to the movie that started it all. The entertainment levels are extremely high and I love the subtle connection to Cloverfield. Award-worthy performances from John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who carry a captivating and mysterious claustrophobic thriller. A wonderful debut of the director Dan Trachtenberg, who almost flawlessly tells a phenomenal story. The only stain in the picture is the abrupt ending and the way it is executed. The slow pacing helps to elevate the suspense and tension in a very unique film for its genre, while the technical aspects are to praise as well.
****************** SPOILER WARNING ******************
As I said at the end of my Cloverfield review, there is an extremely easy-to-miss black dot falling from the sky into the ocean, in the last shot of the movie.
This is a satellite that for some reason fell from space. In 10 Cloverfield Lane, we learn through a couple of lines of dialogue and a shot of a bookshelf, that Howard's former job had to do with ... satellites. This is the only detail of this film that I can connect to the previous one.
Are you following this same theory? Or do you have other ideas? Share them below :)