I can’t stop thinking about 10 Cloverfield Lane. Since I walked out of the theatre, I’ve been trying to figure out how quickly again I can see it. And I wish I could erase it from my mind, so I can see it again for the first time.
First off, there seems to be a little confusion about this movie. Only being announced a few weeks before its release, 10 Cloverfield Lane shares its name with the 2008 found footage monster movie Cloverfield. Being that the first movie had a fury of curious buzz building up to its release, paired with the surprise nature of this latest movie, it’s no wonder why people are wondering about where this movie fits with that one.
The best part about it though, as stated by J.J. Abrams – whose Bad Robot production house released both films, is that they are “blood relatives.” Not even in the same universe. And, after seeing 10 Cloverfield Lane, it proved the idea of what a “Cloverfield” movie is: A small story taking place in a big story. It’s as if someone released a short-story collection all with the same prompt. Different genres, tones – worlds even. It gets me very excited to see what the next one could possibly be. BUT, before I get ahead of myself, I should probably talk about THIS movie. And what a movie it is.
Played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim v. The World, my dreams) we find Michelle driving away from a fight with her boyfriend, when her car is struck, breaks through the barrier, and rolls down the hill. She then wakens in a dank windowless room, leg cuffed to the wall. We learn that she’s actually in a nuclear bunker built under the farm of her rescuer Howard, played by John Goodman (Flight, Monsters University).
All is not well though, as Howard explains not only did he save Michelle after her accident, he saved her from an as yet unknown attack on the US. All Howard is certain about is the fact that, whatever kind of attack it was, left the air contaminated and poisonous. Which means they’ll have to remain in the bunker for a few years. We are introduced to Emmett, played by John Gallagher, Jr. (The Newsroom, Short Term 12), a local man who helped Howard build the shelter, knowing exactly where to come when, he too, saw the bright flash of the mysterious attack.
At first, things are peachy keen. Jukebox music, puzzles, and game nights. Slowly though, Michelle grows cautious of Howard’s intent. He’s quick to anger, paranoid, and seems more like an unstable dictator than a guardian angel. Her terror of Howard wins over her terror of the supposed poisonous air and Michelle crafts a plan, attacking him and making a run for the door. What she spots through the bunker door window, sheds some much needed light on Michelle’s situation, as well as some perspective about Howard himself.
It’s hard to continue talking about 10 Cloverfield Lane without giving too much away. In his silver screen debut, director Dan Trachtenberg has crafted a suspense and mystery rarely seen since the days of Hitchcock. Trachtenberg knows when to hold a shot and just let it sit, allowing the palpable unease to permeate into your brain. This movie feels like a mine car chase, with its climbs and dips and turns. The whole time, knowing even the solid footing is unsafe, and going to quickly change. Then about 2/3rds of the way in, the mine car loses its brakes and there is no stopping the chaos that follows.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead beautifully shows her range here. At first we see her literally running from her problems, and steadily we see her grow into a badass hero that Ripley herself would be proud of. John Goodman should be awarded an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Howard. As the poster says, “Monsters come in many forms.” And this monster is truly terrifying, mostly because of his unpredictability, but also because he believes what he’s doing is right and good.
10 Cloverfield Lane feels like a miracle. A Hitchcock-ian mystery that had left me agape multiple times. We just don’t get movies like this anymore. It feels like a modern day Twilight Zone with some stones while honoring the art of storytelling. If “Cloverfield” now means showing a love of unique stories about the tiny things that happen in the midst of something huge? Count me in all the way. And 10 Cloverfield Lane was the perfect movie to sell me on that idea. I can’t wait for the next surprise.