Review: Since J.J. Abrams announced that Dan Trachtenberg’s directorial debut , 10 Cloverfield Lane (initially called Valencia during production) would be a ‘blood relative’ sequel to Abrams-produced Cloverfield (2008), a new discourse embarks on this question: How ‘blood relative’ is defined?
Stripping off the groundbreaking found footage style from the predecessor and focusing more on a taut, psychological approach, it seems that the movie strictly conceals its ‘blood relative’ connection. And more, 10 Cloverfield Lane challenges the audiences to prove whether it is actually connected and/or emerged in the same Cloverfield-verse until the end. Since it’s spoiler-susceptible, I’d keep this review clean from any spoiler-y gimmick, which might taint its cinematic experience.
Opened with a young woman, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) leaving her apartment, 10 Cloverfield Lane takes a quick turn into a clue-gathering puzzle immediately. It was a bad day for Michelle, she just leaves her off-screen boyfriend (voiced by Bradley Cooper) when another car suddenly knocks her car off the road. The next time she opens her eyes, she finds herself in a claustrophobic bunker with a middle-aged survivalist named Howard (John Goodman) and an injured Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.).
Covered with paranoia, Michelle urges to get out from the bunker only to get fast refused by Howard, citing that the outside world has been contaminated. In other words, they’re stuck there for an undetermined amount of time. From there, questions by questions slowly emerge to surface—whether it was all a setup or there has been a real attack outside.
10 Cloverfield Lane is trickily manipulating audiences into believing that the plot might go to certain possibilities before denying it by leading it to some other possibilities. The script—written by Josh Campbell and Matthew Stuecken, and get polished by Whiplash‘ Damien Chazelle—is well-structured; it is built upon mysteries and slow revelation. The plot goes like posing a probing question, then giving a tricky clues to answer the question only to find another question each more dire than any of the previouses. Whether it’s a horror, a mystery, an alien invasion movie, or a real Cloverfield sequel, it’s unknown until the last 15 minute.
One might simply think 10 Cloverfield Lane is a crossover of Room, Identity, and Cloverfield; that doesn’t sound wrong, but doesn’t sound right given the originality it bears as a sequel. While Cloverfield is gripping from the beginning as it visually brings audiences into real-time turmoil the protagonists are struggling against, 10 Cloverfield Lane brings them psychologically and emotionally, sometimes in real-time. Burning in slow pace, Dan Trachtenberg effectively put audiences into the protagonist’s state of mind—uncomfortable, curious, but secure at the same time. With aids from constant silence, minimum dialogues, excessive sound effects, and some other details, the real ‘monster’ in this movie really comes in many forms the way the tagline shows.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead is the perfect choice for the damsel in distress, period. However, the real MVP is John Goodman—who takes a survivalist role into a new level. His character, Howard somehow matches the definition of monsters come in many forms; but Howard isn’t a nihilistic kind of character, he’s complex, even too complex. Too many layers of mystery are shadowing his true persona; and even until the movie ends, not all of it are revealed, and that’s a good thing. In a claustrophobic story with mostly 3 characters on-screen, Goodman’s rock-solid performance is a cancer—in a good way.
In final verdict, 10 Cloverfield Lane has taken a ‘sequel’, even franchise development, into a new level. It’s completely original, savvy, thrilling, unpredictable, and cancerous at once, thanks to excellent performances from John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. For maximum experience, I suggest you stay away from any trailers, promotional images, and even the original Cloverfield.
10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
Drama, Thriller, Mystery Directed by: Dan Trachtenberg Written by: Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, Damien Chazelle Starred by: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr. Runtime: 103 mins Rated PG-13