10 Cloverfield Lane Movie Review
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J.J. Abrams is a man who loves giving off an air of mystery and intrigue. That makes up a huge portion of his entertainment DNA. It doesn’t matter if it’s a television show or a full length movie, never will anything be as simple or straightforward as it might seem at a cursory glance. Knowing that Abrams wears that label proudly it’s difficult to take him at his word because there’s seemingly always something up his sleeve. His latest project is a great example of this. Two months ago no one even knew that he was working on a movie called 10 Cloverfield Lane, let alone that it would be released less than 60 days from when a trailer was released out of nowhere on January 15, 2016. There were no whispers about any untitled projects or anything, just a simple cryptic trailer with very little given away as to its plot. Finally the day has come where it is officially released to the public and all is revealed. This should mean that the pieces of this mysterious plot will be put into their respective places. I mean that has to be the case, right? Ummm not so fast…
Decisions made for the most trivial of reasons can sometimes have the most profound effects. This the case for Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who decides in an instant that she’s done with her current relationship and decides to pack a suitcase and just leave. There’s no way she could have known the series of events that were to follow but it’s safe to say that her life will never be the same because of it. Upon leaving her residence she just drives and drives and drives putting as much distance as she can between herself and her troubled life. She ends up in a car accident that knocks her unconscious.
When Michelle awakens befuddled, confused and injured, she finds herself not in a hospital but instead somewhere much more unsettling. Making matters worst it seems that she is being held captive, at least for the time being. Her “keeper” as I’ll describe him for now is a mysterious man named Howard (John Goodman) who initially is not one for small talk. The second person she meets in this new place is Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.). As the story plays out, much is revealed but audiences will quickly realize that there is much more to the stories being told.
If you aren’t aware of this fact, in 2008 J.J. Abrams served as a producer on Cloverfield which chronicled the events of several friends in Manhattan when the unimaginable happened, a giant Godzilla-like monster along with a bunch of smaller monsters laid waste to much of New York killing thousands of people along the way. To this day I’m still not 100% certain of everything that went on or why. It doesn’t take that big of a leap of faith for many to want to tie together the events of Cloverfield to this new J.J. Abrams produced 10 Cloverfield Lane. That was the assumption that I personally had going in so I was pretty confident as to the broad path this new movie would take. Having said that, being familiar with Abrams’ past works I wouldn’t be shocked one bit if I was completely wrong.
As far as notable differences go, I do have a couple of items to offer here. The filming aspects of the two are totally different, with one being shot from a shaky-cam perspective and the other filmed in the more traditional style. The cast was vast in the 2008 movie whereas you’re left with only seeing three people for pretty much the entirety of the movie. Then there’s the pace at which key elements are revealed. One gets going about 20 minutes in and pretty much keeps going. The other is definitely more of a methodical, slow-burn pace meant to build up suspense.
10 Cloverfield Lane is definitely character and performance driven with special effects and action taking a back seat. This is being pointed out for expectations sake since many will crave more action than is present (this also includes me). Patience is needed because the payoff is not a quick. Director Dan Trachtenberg opts for a more measured approach. John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher, Jr. all give solid performances but not great ones. Goodman stands out as the winner of the trio mostly because his character is written to have a wide scope of behavior.
To say that 10 Cloverfield Lane is disappointing is not a fair assessment because it has many redeeming factors, mostly from an acting standpoint as well as the curiosity of the entire story and how it plays out. The pace is a little too slow for the type of audience that I foresee this movie attracting based on previews and trailers. What will put behinds in the seats over the next couple of weekends will be the ever growing curiosity of just what the heck is this movie is all about. Out of respect for what the studio and everyone else involved is trying to do,
I will not be the one to let the cat out of the bag. Just know that it covers a few different genres but doesn’t master any of them. If you come away somewhat disappointed you won’t be alone as it isn’t your typical movie of this type. I will say that after having a couple of days to really digest what my eyes saw and my brain processed, my feelings about 10 Cloverfield Lane are more positive now than they were when the credits started rolling. Check it out in theaters now especially if you’re worried about mysteries being revealed.