10 Cloverfield Lane SPOILER-FREE Review
10 Cloverfield Lane popped out of nowhere a couple months ago, dropping a trailer for this mysterious Cloverfield quasi-sequel. There was no word that a sequel was even in development, and then bam! A trailer drops and the movie is suddenly coming out in two months. Since then, fans have done nothing but speculate. How does this film tie in to Cloverfield? Was it really filmed as a sequel, or are they just playing it up with the marketing? What the hell is this movie? These were all questions I had going into the film. I also had a genuine interest in the movie itself. John Goodman looked fantastic, and it seemed like a really interesting premise. So I didn't walk into the film entirely because it was related to Cloverfield. And that will the movie's downfall for some fans, as it has virtually no ties to Cloverfield. But it works out for the best, as 10 Cloverfield Lane is a far better film than its supposed original.
The film centers on Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who wakes up in the underground cellar of a crazed doomsday prepper named Howard (John Goodman) who claims that there was an attack on the world (chemical, nuclear, extraterrestrial-- it's unknown) and that the air is toxic. Michelle doesn't believe him, and continuously tries to find ways to escape with her "roommate" Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) as Howard's story becomes more and more unbelievable.
It's hard to believe that 10 Cloverfield Lane was made by a first time director, because Dan Trachtenberg did a brilliant job with this film. The movie had pretty much one location, a cellar, and he made it dynamic and engaging. As the film progressed, a suspense and tension rose to a crescendo as everything built up to something. Trachtenberg got fantastic performances out of his minimal cast. While Winstead excelled at leading this cast, Goodman was absolutely terrifying. He showed his power and terror in small ways. He plays himself up as a gentleman, respecting chivalry and manners, and absolutely loses it when he doesn't get his way. As the film progresses, Goodman gets creepier and creepier, and you are so unnerved by his mannerisms and how he acts. He just gives a fantastic performance!
But Winstead really leads the film, and she's great. This is a performance-driven film by far, as it is enclosed in one singular location. This movie is nothing without its strong characters and great performances, which is a stark contrast to the original Cloverfield. That film utilized the effect of found-footage and its giant monsters to make a really fun movie, but this is a much different kind of film. And I want to warn fans going in expecting Cloverfield 2. This has virtually nothing to do that the film. It has even been revealed that it was originally filmed and called The Cellar before it was re-branded and repackaged as being part of the Cloverfield universe. There is really only one tie to the film, and it is something clearly added last second in the editing room.
I did have some problems with the movie, however. While it maintained a steady pace for the most part, some scenes did drag at points. But with these moments it quickly recovered. My biggest problem was with the ending of the movie, which felt out of place and forced. I won't say what happens, since this is a spoiler-free review, but the last ten or fifteen minutes of the movie diverge completely from the feel of the rest of the movie in an effort to connect more to Cloverfield. This feels like a scene out of another movie, and does not fit with the psychological thriller that it was established as prior. It has been put online what the originally written ending was, and I think it is much better, and suites the film. This ending is jarring and does not fit at all.
Overall, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a really enjoyable psychological thriller. Set in an underground bunker, it relies on only three performances to drive the film. While Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr. are great in the movie, John Goodman steals the show with his crazed and nuanced performance. Dan Tratchenberg also shines, as this is his directorial debut and he knocks it out of the park. Some scenes did drag on a bit, and could have been tightened up. But my biggest problem was the ending, which did not fit in with the rest of the film and could have been a lot better. Ultimately, this is not a Cloverfield sequel, nor is it really related to it. But it is definitely a film to watch on its own merits, as an engaging and well-acted psychological drama.
What do you think? Have you seen 10 Cloverfield Lane? Did you like it? Leave your (spoiler-free) thoughts in the comments section below.
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