Review: ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ Takes Its Genre Conventions To The Limit

By March 11, 2016
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Few movies have quite as much opportunity to shock their audiences like 10 Cloverfield Lane. Kept a secret until two months before its release, the spiritual sequel to the 2007, found-footage monster film has been nothing short of a mystery ever since the first trailer’s release in January. The biggest question going into the film though was whether or not it would be a victim or beneficiary of producer J.J. Abrams’ renowned mystery box technique.

Luckily, it’s mostly the latter. But I’ll get to that later.

Since the filmmakers themselves have gone out of their way to keep as much about the film as secret as possible as well, here’s everything that you might want to know about the film going into it this weekend, nothing more, nothing less, and definitely not anything more than what you might have learned from any of the film’s cryptic trailers.

The film follows Michelle (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who after a strange and personal set of circumstances, winds up in a nuclear bomb shelter built and looked over by John Goodman’s Howard. When she wakes from her car accident, Howard tells Michelle that he rescued her from the nuclear apocalypse. Everyone in the outside world is dead, and she’s lucky to be alive. Also occupying the bunker is Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), a man around the same age as Michelle, with just as many personal demons and reasons for winding up in the shelter.

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With a simple, but digestible premise, 10 Cloverfield Lane recognizes that it would be nothing without a strong trio of actors, and Winstead, Gallagher Jr., and Goodman all deliver some of the best performances of their respective careers her. From the moment you meet her, Winstead is able to communicate all of Michelle’s emotions and inner thoughts with just the slightest of movements or a glance of her eyes. She’s proven herself to be a capable actress for years now, and it’s a delight to see her given as much room to play as she does here. A problem-solver stuck in an almost unsolvable situation, she confidently communicates strength, fear, and resilience incredibly well, in a very subtle and restrained performance.

Gallagher Jr. shines here as well. After really breaking onto the film scene in 2013 with his strong supporting role opposite Brie Larson in Short Term 12, it’s nice to see him given an opportunity like this on such a massive scale. His Emmett is a quintessential Southern boy in a lot of ways, but there’s an inherent sadness and longing that becomes increasingly more apparent as the film goes on.

The reason you come to see this movie though, is John Goodman’s practically awards-worthy performance. Sometimes reminiscent of Kathy Bates in Misery, and other times a much more reserved and lovable man, Howard’s range of emotions throughout the entirety of the film (which usually depends on how Michelle sees him at any given time) is possibly the greatest acting joy of the year so far. With screenwriter Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) coming on board to perform a rewrite on the script, I’d be willing to bet that he had a strong say over 99% of Goodman’s dialogue in the film because the similarities between Howard and J.K. Simmons’ Fletcher from Whiplash are almost uncanny. It’s just as enjoyably dark and fun as you’d expect.

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To be perfectly honest, the only real problems that 10 Cloverfield Lane has come from the connections to the previous film. It’s clear that this was intended to be a standalone movie, with its own story and world, and whether anyone wants to say it or not, the Cloverfield connections feel tacked on and sloppy. They are the biggest problems with the film, and in trying to remain as spoiler-free as possible, I will say that had 10 Cloverfield Lane ended about 10 minutes earlier than it did, this would very easily be my favorite film of the year so far. Unfortunately, it goes on just a bit longer than it might have, and because of it, the film suffers slightly.

With all of that being said, this is one of the most involving experiences I’ve had in the movie theatre in years. Director Dan Trachtenberg makes an impressive, visceral feature debut here, in a movie that’s tension is nail-bitingly effective. The script lets its characters’ actions speak higher volumes than any monologue could (although there are a few of those), and working well with Bear McCreary’s score, the execution is nearly perfect on all fronts.

I went into 10 Cloverfield Lane expecting something good, and ended up getting something better than I could have probably imagined a spiritual sequel to an alright monster film would be. At times more shocking and gutsy than any of its recent genre predecessors, 10 Cloverfield Lane truly shines when confronting the most terrifying truth of all: sometimes the most inhuman creatures on this planet, are the ones driving on the road next to you. Like a Twilight Zone episode crossed with a Stephen King adaptation, 10 Cloverfield Lane is one of the most unique theatre experiences you’ll likely have all year.

10 Cloverfield Lane is set to hit theatres on March 11th.

Make sure to keep checking back for more updates — right here on GeekNation.

Alex Welch

Alex Welch

Alex dreams of meeting a girl with a yellow umbrella, and spends too much time* staring at a movie screen. His vocabulary consists mostly of movie quotes and 80s song lyrics. *Debatable
  • Mr_Scorpio

    AS long as we don’t have to worry about the Shakey-Cam, I’m all in.