10 Cloverfield Lane
The surprise Cloverfield ‘sequel’ no one was expecting also happens to be one of the year’s best films so far, with plenty of twists and turns that will keep you guessing in a white-knuckle, tension filled, thriller. Come inside to check out our full review.
I love the original Cloverfield, and it’s a movie I find myself frequently coming back to and enjoying thoroughly. On top of my love of monster movies, the film raises interesting questions that remain, largely, unanswered. Every time I watch it, I find myself thinking on the mysteries and piecing the clues together as best I can. It’s an impressive feat for any film to keep me so involved in the world every time (especially with so little information).
As such, my excitement for 10 Cloverfield Lane when its surprise announcement trailer came was palpable. Forget the Cloverfield connection for a moment, and you’re left with a great trailer for a story that looks engaging...so it’s win-win at that point. While Cloverfield Lane isn’t a sequel to the original film in the way some fans were hoping to see, the connections are obvious, and it’s story is so well crafted you won’t care. Let’s talk a little bit more.
I’m going to knock this part out of the way real quick, WITHOUT any spoilers, because I know many people are wondering how it connects to the original film. It’s not Cloverfield 2 and there’s a reason for that. 10 Cloverfield Lane is not a direct sequel, but it’s obviously the same ‘world’ they exist in.
The connections between it is clear to see and will have you pretty giddy, but it’s also one of the coolest reveals in the film. I won’t go any further into it, but if you were wondering about how these films co-exist, they do in a really neat way.
An Intimate Thriller
Cloverfield Lane isn’t set up in the same way as the previous Cloverfield movie. It’s shot in a more traditional style with an entirely different story. The film starts off with Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) running off from her relationship, and in the process winds up in an accident. When she wakes up, she finds herself locked in with a very strange man, Howard (John Goodman), and has no idea why she’s there. She and another man, Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), are held in an underground bunker, having been told the world outside has been wiped out in some unknown attack.
Things aren’t exactly what they seem, however, which is pretty much the guiding light behind the movie. Just when you think you have it figured out, a curveball is thrown your way that changes your perception of the characters and story. I’ll come back to that later, but suffice it to say, it’s incredibly hard to talk about the story without giving away something cool, (especially since I’m trying to keep this spoiler free).
The film thrusts you immediately into the story and wastes little time in setting things up beforehand. This leaves it up to the characters and their interactions to fill in parts of the backstory, which plays out wonderfully. Each new piece of information you get feels like a revelation that helps piece together the mystery of what’s happening inside the bunker and in the outside world.
You’re learning everything right along with the characters, which provides a nearly constant source of tension that overlays every single scene. In just about every way, the film is drastically different in tone from the previous film. The story borders on horror/thriller and is shot very differently, but it works to craft one of the most engaging stories I’ve seen in a while.
The film takes place largely in one setting with only those three characters. While that may seem like an easy recipe for boredom, it makes for a more intimate affair that engrosses you completely. The characters stick with you, the story keeps you glued to your seat, and setting itself is a large part of the driving story.
Twists and Turns
One of the reasons it’s so hard to talk about this film without spoiling, is because of how much happens in the movie. There are plenty of twists in the film that will shock and intrigue you, but none of them feel gimmicky or simply there for shock value. This is perhaps the biggest reason I can’t stop thinking about this movie. Every time I thought I had something figured out in the story a new revelation would completely change it and alter my perceptions of what’s going on. I don’t mean this in a way where it’s one surprise after another in some schlocky way.
That would get old pretty quickly. Rather, the reveals come naturally within the story in a way that keeps you guessing, but with enough clues to let you figure things out. It doesn’t spoon feed you all the answers, but neither does it make things so obscure that you’re out of sorts when reveals happen. It’s a delicate balance, but Cloverfield Lane does it wonderfully.
My girlfriend and I were talking about the film long into the night after we returned from the screening, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since the credits rolled. While the ‘mystery’ elements of the film are riveting as you watch it, I feel it will have a lot of repeat viewing power as well. Even now, I’m eager to watch it again for any clues I may have missed before and see how certain dialog and scenes feel different knowing the outcome that I do. It’s a testament to the filmmakers and how this story was shaped.
This film is seriously tense and will give just about any recent horror movie a run for it’s money in terms of keeping you on the edge of your seat. Even when nothing seems to be happening, there’s a pervasive sense of unease you simply can’t shake. Just when things seem normal there’s a reminder of how messed up everything really is.
One of the easiest examples here, is with Howard. Something as simple as him breathing harder was enough to get my heart beating faster and grip my armrests a little tighter. Cloverfield Lane does such a great job of keeping you on your toes, any little thing that goes on has you on edge. It’s a level of suspense you wouldn’t expect a film with only three characters to be able to maintain.
To this point, I can’t say enough about how strong the acting is in the film. All three of them gave amazing performances that make them instantly interesting. Michelle is out of her element and constantly wary of her circumstances. She’s strong, intelligent, and doesn’t make a bunch of stupid/reckless decisions that all too many female characters in thrillers tend to make. You won’t be screaming at the screen about anyone’s stupidity.
John Goodman is incredible as Howard, and is a standout performance in my mind. Howard’s a weird guy, and you’re never sure if he’s a nutjob, has some mental illness, a serial killer, a liar, or what. His demeanor and presence changes from scene to scene (sometimes within one) to great effect on the viewers and it all stems from Goodman’s portrayal of the character.
Beyond the acting, a lot of credit needs to be given to how the film is shot and composed. Dan Trachtenberg does an excellent job of creating tension through dynamic shots and composition, while still managing to be gorgeous all at the same time. One of the scenes that stands out to me most, is when Michelle is in the air vent. It’s a prime example of creating strong tension only through visuals and insinuation.
Couple all of this with a stunning soundtrack that highlights everything going on, and you have a superbly crafted film from all sides.
Even knowing the twists that come into place, I can’t help but feel an urge to watch it again and again. While it’s lower key, and makes great use of a minimal aesthetic, it has an undeniable ability to hook you and be a lot of fun. Don’t miss out on this one in theaters.