The story in 10 Cloverfield Lane successfully spans across several genres of film including thriller, suspense, mystery and action all the way to a monster movie.
I am waiting until after I finish writing about it to go on a deep-dive about the ending and underlying themes so as not to influence my opinion of the film, but I am really excited to learn about the method behind director Dan Trachtenberg’s brilliant madness.
I won’t include the big spoilers in this review, but fair warning it’s hard to write about the film without including some of the specifics.
So you can stop reading now if you want … … …
The trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane doesn’t give much away, which is imperative with this kind of film, other than to reveal that there is a car accident early on in the story (I think that’s in the plot description, too.) The character of Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is introduced not long before the accident, which is one of the many moments that caused me to look away from the screen. I did see enough of it to know that it sets the tone for the suspense and surprises to expect during the rest of the film.
After the accident, Michelle ends up in a seemingly post-apocalyptic bunker belonging to Howard (John Goodman) and soon learns there is another captive there – Emmett, played by John Gallagher Jr.
I need a moment to interrupt the regularly scheduled programming and gush about Gallagher Jr., who is becoming my new “it boy,” or one of them as there is no way I can neglect the likes of Paul Dano, JGL, Matt Damon and don’t even get me started on my comedy crushes.
Gallagher Jr. was excellent in Short Term 12 and The Newsroom, even though I wasn’t a huge fan of that show and I like his beard in 10 Cloverfield Lane.
Back to that subject, it is the directorial feature-film debut for Trachtenberg with J.J. Abrams producing and a host of story developers and screenplay writers including Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken and Damien Chazelle (director of one of my favorite movies,Whiplash) on board.
After Michelle’s accident, the film explores whether what’s good and evil is inside of the bunker with Howard or outside where he says there has been an attack and the air is contaminated. He says he saved Michelle’s life after the accident by bringing her there.
Michelle always has some doubt that what Howard is saying is true and she is stuck deciding whether what is outside is a bigger threat or if it’s Howard.
For awhile the bunker even seems like a happy place with Emmett there and as the characters listen to music, play games and watch movies.
Of course the dark side of it all was never too far away and there was an effective build of anticipation throughout the story while the three characters were together. Then, the story took a new and unexpected turn that still fit in with the overall plot.
This is the part where I can’t get really specific (I know I haven’t done well with that so far), but just knowing there is a twist won’t ruin the complete surprises in 10 Cloverfield Lane.
Winstead as the hero, Goodman as the creepy captor and Gallagher Jr. as the mysterious, good-hearted sidekick, give solid individual performances and work well together in the film. It also has a strong presence of music … not just the tunes playing on the jukebox …but in the score that fits perfectly with the most suspenseful moments. It’s especially prominent in the first scene with the accident, which is before the opening credits even start, and continues throughout, much like in It Follows or Drive.
I didn’t see Cloverfield before this film, and I’ve heard they are mostly not related, but I am intrigued by that story now and to compare the two. 10 Cloverfield Lane also opens up the franchise to include movies, not necessarily a sequel, and Dan Trachtenberg definitely has promise if he continues to lead the project in collaboration with Abrams and the aforementioned writers.
More advice from Emily V. Gordon, especially if you happen to find yourself stuck in a bunker stocked with craft supplies, “You have a choice to release your creative efforts into the world.”