US Release Date: 03-08-2016
Directed by: Dan Trachtenberg
- John Goodman, as
- Mary Elizabeth Winstead, as
- John Gallagher Jr., as
- Douglas M. Griffin, as
- Suzanne Cryer, as
- Bradley Cooper, as
- Ben (voice)
- Sumalee Montano, as
- Voice on Radio (voice)
- Frank Mottek as
- Radio Broadcaster
John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr. in 10 Cloverfield Lane.
10 Cloverfield Lane has been labeled a “spiritual sequel” to 2008's Cloverfield by producer J.J. Abrams. It features entirely different characters and a vastly different setting but like Cloverfield, this is an end of the world monster movie that raises more questions than it answers. With just 3 main characters, who spend most of the film in one place, this is more of a psychological thriller than the first movie in what is now being called the Cloververse. Although not as action packed as the first movie, the final 30 minutes offers plenty of tense action and the ending is more satisfying than the abrupt ending of the first Cloverfield.
A young woman named Michelle breaks up with her boyfriend and drives into the country. She hears reports about cities experiencing strange blackouts on the radio and then takes a call from the ex-boyfriend (voiced by Bradley Cooper). Suddenly her car is slammed into by a truck and she awakens in a cement bunker chained to a wall and with an IV in her arm. What follows in 10 Cloverfield Lane is Michelle's story of survival. She's another in the growing list of bad ass female characters who kick serious butt and Mary Elizabeth Winstead is impressive in the part.
John Goodman is creepy as hell as Howard. He claims to have saved Michelle's life from some apocalyptic attack. He tells her the air outside the bunker is toxic. The bunker itself is quite homey (see photo). Howard has old movies, like an old VHS tape of Pretty in Pink, and a jukebox with lots of old songs. “I Think We're Alone Now” by Tommy James and the Shondells has never sounded so menacing.
Michelle soon learns that there's another person in the bunker – a young man named Emmett. Emmett knows Howard, having helped him build the bunker. He confirms Howard's story of the attack, telling Michelle that he fought his way into the bunker and isn't being held captive by Howard. From here things build to an exciting climax. The less you know ahead of time the better.
A taut script, some odd humor, solid performances from the small cast, and a bit of CGI eye candy all add together to make 10 Cloverfield Lane a better movie than Cloverfield. The ending is left wide open for a direct sequel or, as Abrams has suggested, they may instead do another stand-alone entry in the Cloverfield franchise. Either way, I'll happily go see the next one.
John Gallagher Jr., Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and John Goodman in 10 Cloverfield Lane.
The links between this and the original Cloverfield are tenuous, but subtle. Sharp-eyed viewers have noted that the satellite company Howard works for is the same satellite company that plays a key part of the original film and that the Slusho! brand, which is the company who hired the protagonist of the first film, also makes an appearance here. But connections beyond those are mostly left up to the viewer to make and it should be noted that J.J. Abrams, who directed the original and produced the sequel, is known for reusing brand names in all his productions. Like its predecessor though, this "spiritual sequel", as Patrick has noted it's being called, is a taut and entertaining thriller that is helped immensely by ditching the "found footage" conceit of the original.
This really is a movie though where, as Patrick said, the less you know before watching, the better. Much of the fun and tension in the film comes from trying to figure out the situation along with Winstead's character Michelle. The tension unfolds as we learn, or think we learn, more about these characters and we guess, along with them, what's happening on the surface above.
Although Winstead is the star, and does a great job in the part, she has a tough time keeping John Goodman from stealing the movie. He is as creepy as Patrick said. Goodman has always been a great character actor, but he's usually noted for playing nicer characters with a touch of comic relief. He provides none of that here though. He's truly psychotic and his unpredictability makes him dangerous. You truly don't know what he's capable of or what he will do next. Filmed before his dramatic weight loss, his bulky frame looms over the thin bodies of Winstead and Gallagher.
I'm sure Abrams deserves some of the credit, but first time director Trachtenberg makes the most of his debut. Unlike too many films these days, there's not an extraneous shot in the whole film and the running time is a brisk 103 minutes. The opening five minutes of the film provide the backstory with a minimal amount of dialogue and then from the moment Michelle wakes up the story keeps you in its grip through the finale.
In regards to a sequel, I'm hoping for a direct one. I'd like to see what happens next in this universe, but like Patrick, spiritual or direct, I'll be there either way.
John Gallagher and Jr and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in 10 Cloverfield Lane
I have no real interest in a sequel, whether it be direct or spiritual. I did not find this to be a taut and entertaining thriller or even an interesting character study. Emmett and Michelle never became real enough for me to concern myself with their safety. All we know of them is that Michelle is running from her personal life. Emmett avoided the unknown while Howard is all knowing and has a questionable past.
10 Cloverfield Lane starts with an interesting enough premise, however unoriginal it may be. Like Dr. Lawrence Gordon, Michelle wakes up chained to a wall and has no idea where she is or how she got there. Later, the story takes a right turn into a science fiction world that changes the tone dramatically. Michelle starts as a girl running away from her problems but by the end of the film she becomes a woman who directly faces them. She goes from Joy "Ma" Newsome to Ellen Ripley, by way of Mark Watney. I never bought this transformation when it happened to Cassie Sullivan and I certainly don't buy it here.
John Goodman is very good as the odd Howard, who seems completely bothered by both Michelle and Emmett being with him in his bunker. Why then, did he even allow Emmett in and take Michelle if he was just going to act put out and threatening the entire time they are with him? If he wanted companionship he would have been nicer to both. If he wanted sex from Michelle he should have either kept her locked up as a sex slave or been much more pleasant to her. He treats them both like friends of his children that he, at best, puts up with. Why allow them in if they are going to eat two thirds of your survival rations and give you nothing in return. It does not make sense, but then Howard is a man that keeps a barrel of acid in his bunker but not a better receiver to pick up outside radio broadcasts?
At one point Michele serves a purpose to Howard but that scene is more about foreshadowing a future event than anything else. Later in the film we start to see that Howard has some sort of personal desire for Michelle but it is never actually spelled out. Sure, we suspect something nefarious happened in that bunker and so does Emmett and Michelle, which brings up the question of why they do not just kill Howard if they feel so threatened by him? He has to sleep sometime.
10 Cloverfield Lane is an unoriginal story with uninteresting characters and uninspired direction. I never felt the claustrophobia that I should have or even a sense of confinement. I knew I should have seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 instead.
Photos © Copyright Paramount Pictures (2016)