Film Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane

by Chad Liffmann on March 11, 2016

Perfectly thrilling from beginning to end.

Howard is always watching.

Howard is always watching.

10 Cloverfield Lane is the “sequel” of sorts to the J.J. Abrams produced 2008 found-footage monster movie, Cloverfield. At least that’s what its meant to be — or rather a spin-off/anthology story. In all honesty, I’ve never seen a “sequel” be so distinct in style and substance from its predecessor. And this is for the best, since 10 Cloverfield Lane is a remarkable old-school thriller that aims to build upon the world set up in Cloverfield, rather than be confined by the latter’s story elements. It’s also been a while since I’ve been so nervous watching a film! Once 10 Cloverfield Lane hooks you in, you’re strapped in for an intense, unrelenting ride executed to near perfection via sharp direction and A-game acting.

10 Cloverfield Lane is the feature film debut from director Dan Trachtenberg. And what an entry! If the tightness and effectiveness of every shot in this movie are any indication, Trachtenberg is a name we’ll be seeing more often atop film posters for a long time. Of course, credit should also go to the editor and cinematographer, Stefan Grube and Jeff Cutter, respectively. But behind the compactness of the film’s overall flow is a director who knows how to utilize a low budget production for maximum effect.

And speaking of effectiveness, the performances of the three leads should be studied for their display of mastery (of acting). Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) is terrific as Michelle, a young woman kept in an underground bunker by an overpowering man, Howard, played by John Goodman. An unrecognizable John Gallagher Jr. (The Newsroom) is completely enveloped in the role of an impressionable and vulnerable bunker-mate, Emmett. Now let’s return to John Goodman for a moment. To many of you, Goodman has proven himself an incredible actor time and time again. To others, his lack of top billed roles has kept him at a quasi under-appreciated level for decades. Needless to say, everyone should now understand the fact that he’s one of the most talented students of the acting craft. As Howard, Goodman both subtly and not-so-subtly conveys a powerful presence in a multitude of emotional spectrums, yet the character is as much a contained force of impending destruction as the enclosed environment in which he’s built himself into. He’s just one of many assets of fear in 10 Cloverfield Lane. The movie is an exploration of fear in all of its forms — fear of other people, of the unknown, of death, of expectations, of commitment, claustrophobia, and fear of a crap-load of other things that would spoil too much!

What it boils down to is whether two camps will enjoy 10 Cloverfield Lane — and I’ll take this quick opportunity to say that I’m not a huge fan of the title, though by the end of the film it ends up fitting quite nicely due to its specificity — the camp of hardcore Cloverfield fans and the camp of folks who have no clue what Cloverfield is. The answer, in my opinion, is that both camps should enjoy 10 Cloverfield Lane because it caters to both while also catering to neither. It’s its own solid Hitchcockian-meets-Spielbergian thriller. It doesn’t aim to be anything more than entertaining and accessible to mass audiences. If die hard fans choose to read obsessively into every little minute detail and potential easter egg hidden within the 105 minutes, go for it. I guess my point is, you don’t have to. Just hold onto your seat, take a deep breath, and enjoy the ride.

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10 Cloverfield Lane opens in theaters Friday, March 11th.

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