REVIEW: “10 Cloverfield Lane”

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So I guess we can actually say there is now a Cloverfield franchise? That certainly seems to be the case with the release of “10 Cloverfield Lane”. Whether this is the first of several Cloverfield tie-ins, who knows, but I do wonder if the creators of the original film (a 2008 surprise hit) ever envisioned this thing being a series.

This film is nestled in the Cloverfield universe but is not a direct sequel. In fact it differentiates itself in a number of ways. Its narrative connections to the previous film are vague. The visual approach is significantly different. The first film used the once popular found-footage technique while this one (thankfully) stays away from it. The two films even dabble in completely different genres.

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE

“Cloverfield” was a Godzilla-like science fiction monster movie. “10 Cloverfield  Lane” plays around in several genres, but at its core it is a psychological thriller. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Michelle who leaves New Orleans after an argument with her fiancé. Later that night, while driving across rural Louisiana, she has a car accident that knocks her unconscious. She wakes up to find herself chained to wall of a small concrete room.

A creepy and cryptic John Goodman plays Howard – the man who brought her to his fully furnished underground bunker. He explains that there has been an attack either by foreign countries or alien forces which left everyone on the outside dead and the air saturated with lethal radiation. An overwhelmed Michelle must determine whether to fear Howard as her captor or be thankful for him saving her life. There is one other piece of the puzzle.  Emmitt DeWitt (John Gallagher, Jr.) is also in the bunker but the reason and his intentions are a mystery.

“10 Cloverfield Lane” ratchets down on the psychological thrills. For the majority of the film the events outside the bunker take a backseat to the intense drama within. In his directorial debut Dan Trachtenberg shows an impressive understanding of pacing and tension building. His focus on character dynamics serve as the main source of tension and suspense. It slowly builds through character interactions. Trachtenberg maintains a level of uncertainty while never tipping his hand.

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He does overplay his hand a bit in the final act. I wouldn’t say the film has a poor ending, but the approach, both visually and narratively, clash with the tone the rest of the film worked hard to develop. In a weird way I appreciated the sudden jolt the final act gives. At the same time I couldn’t help but feel it belonged in a different movie.

I’m actually intrigued to see where the Cloverfield franchise goes next. This installment made over $100 million against a $15 million budget so I’m sure we will get more of them. I would love to see them follow this film’s blueprint of playing around with different ideas while making characters the chief focus. But hopefully they won’t feel compelled to tack on another popcorn movie ending that feels completely at odds with everything else they are going for.

VERDICT – 4 STARS

4 Stars

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27 thoughts on “REVIEW: “10 Cloverfield Lane”

  1. Yeah man this was a ton of fun! The ending bit doesn’t seem to popular but I dug that too. Agreed though that it does feel slightly out of step with the deep, almost introspective dramatic tension created through 90% of the film. But you kind of had to expect that they’d eventually reveal what’s what, but maybe it could have been handled slightly more subtly. 🙂

    • I really am in a weird place with the ending. The massive tonal shift is jarring but I don’t hate it by any means. I actually think it works in a really odd sort of way. I don’t know. Can’t nail down a certain feeling. Weird, right?

  2. I couldn’t agree more. I loved the psychological thrills and how much tension was created even in such a confined space. And you’re right, the ending didn’t fit at all. I was hoping Michelle’s alien encounter was all in her mind…like a hallucination brought about by the intense trauma she’d just experienced. Great review 🙂

    • Thanks. I gotta admit it was more fun than I ever expected it to be. Did you see it in the theater? I wish I had but unfortunately I let it slip by.

    • Surprise is a word that fits. I was interested in this movie but I didn’t have big expectations. I was surprised at just how well it works.

  3. I really enjoyed this film. The acting and general tone and atmosphere of the film was great. The last twenty minutes or so of the film were quite random but very unexpected, which I liked. It was a bit ‘out there’ and those scenes were some of those most entertaining I have seen in a long time. I hope there are more ‘Cloverfield’ films to come.

    • It was a lot of fun. More than I anticipated. I’m really impressed with just how well this movie is put together. And as you say the acting is just fantastic. How do you like their approach to the second film? I really like that it isn’t a direct sequel. It seems they have created a Cloverfield universe instead of a Cloverfield series and I think that gives them a lot of room to do a lot of unique things. Hopefully that’s what they’ll do.

      • I was surprised by the approach. I thought it was going to be a ‘spin off’ of sorts. I initially thought the reason they were in the bunker was because of the monster from the first film. I really like and am intrigued by this anthology Cloverfield universe they are creating.

      • Same here. The ending does open up some obvious questions but not in a way that’s detrimental. Can’t wait to see what’s next.

  4. Great review! I really liked this film too and I look forward to seeing how they tie future films in. I assume that this film happened at the same time as the first one.

  5. I loved this film, and appreciated how different it was from the original. As you said, I’m hoping they continue building onto this new franchise with unique ideas. Great review!

    • Thanks man. What a surprise, right? The fact that they created something so different from the first film was impressive. And by taking that approach the possibilities are excitement.

  6. Cool! I enjoyed this one…a strong thriller with a good lead performance and I also really like watching Goodman when he’s playing an imposing monster. I agree the ending comes with a tonal shift but I had no problem with it and quite enjoyed the change after all the time spent in the bunker.

    • I didn’t really hate the ending. It’s such a weird reaction I have. I appreciated it on one level but it was a bit jarring. Definitely didn’t kill the movie for me. It really was a treat and one of the bigger surprises of the year. So what genre do you think they will play with next?

      • I guess they could follow Winstead’s character with a resistance group, but given the disparities between this and the original Cloverfield it’d be quite nice to see them follow completely different characters in a completely different kind of film again. I’d be intrigued so long as it isn’t a Kevin Hart/Adam Sandler buddy comedy!

      • Shhhh! Don’t give them any ideas!

        I really hope they don’t touch Winstead’s story. I think it would be great if they did individual stand alone pictures within the world. And hopefully they will explore other non-buddy cop comedy genres! 😉

  7. I gave it 4 stars, too. I loved Goodman’s performance! It was a sound psychological thriller tapping into the current paranoia of our world cracking and the end in site. I didn’t like it after she escaped from underground. I know the original has the alien concept, but I thought the movie could have stood alone without adding that rushed ending.

    • I agree. I almost think an ambiguous ending would have really worked here. Maybe have her escape the bunker step outside and see one of those ‘things’ and it go off. Something like that. I don’t always go for ambiguous ends but I do think it would have fit.

  8. Nice review Keith. I’m a big fan of the original Cloverfield and I really liked this movie too; Winstead and Goodman’s performances particularly stood out. I didn’t have any problems with the ending since it worked with the title. Hopefully we won’t have to wait another eight years for a sequel.

    • Thanks! I’m curious to see how long before we get another. I would think the success of this one may encourage them to do another sooner than 8 years. I’m anxious to see where they go.

  9. I recently got to see this, and I thoroughly enjoyed it (way more than the first, of which I was no fan). There was a lot to like in this one. Glad to see you had a good time!

    • Wasn’t it fun? I was really surprised. I was amazed to see how far it went away from the first film. Basically most of the film is a completely different genre. That just makes me want them to continue the franchise. Really curious to see what’s next.

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