I’ve never seen J.J. Abrams’ film Cloverfield, it was never really appealing to me. I do, however, remember it’s marketing campaign. I remember how everything about it was kept under wraps, I remember how the title was initially sold as a working title I even remember rumors that it was going to be a sequel to the 1998 Godzilla. That’s what I remember about Cloverfield and eight years later, it’s out of left field sequel 10 Cloverfield Lane follows in its footsteps. Only being announced two months ago it was a surprise to all as no one knew it was even being made. Will it continue to be a surprise or will it be an unappealing dud?
The story for 10 Cloverfield Lane is brilliantly crafted, almost Hitchcockian in fact. The story follows Michelle a young woman who, after getting in a car crash, finds herself locked in an underground bunker by a man named Howard. Howard explains to Michelle and fellow survivor Emmett that there’s been an attack and the outside world is dangerous and they have no choice but to remain in the bunker for an indeterminate amount of time. Right off the bat the film establishes what we’re in for: high tension, claustrophobia and a thick air of mystery. Initially Michelle seeks to escape from this supposed mad man and here the film slowly builds on panic and desperation which erupts in an erratic and violent escape attempt on Michelle’s part. What follows is a sort of cool down period, a part of the film where Michelle begins to befriend Emmett and grows to trust Howard. It’s a rather depressing portion of the film as all is well but of course everything is going to come crashing down very soon. By the third act paranoia sets in with the characters and once more the tension and despair rise once more. First time director Dan Trachtenberg does an excellent job with the tension and suspense of the film. He allows it to slowly build, gripping us and refusing to let go, and in turn this causes the fear and paranoia that Michelle is feeling to affect his audience. I found myself feeling nervous in this tight moments of tension, I felt uncomfortable in moments where Michelle is forced into tight spaces and I found myself unnerved and blatantly scared in moments of outbursts and violence. But it doesn’t stop there because, like the film itself, the last fifteen minutes comes completely out of nowhere. The finale is so crazy, so bizarre that it felt like I was watching a completely different movie so much so that the tension and energy of what I had assumed to be the end was almost completely forgotten. What’s even crazier then that is the fact that the finale somehow fit, it somehow flowed perfectly with everything else in the film and it was an entertaining end to what is already an entertaining film.
The characters for 10 Cloverfield Lane are well made
Michelle is a likable main character. It’s easy to feel for her from the start and she quickly grows more and more likable as the film goes on through her strength, determination and intuition. She also comes off as rather over the top in the finale and in this case over the top is a good thing as she was just incredible at the end. If there is ever a continuation to this film I really hope that it involves a story where Michelle remains the hero.
Howard is a very imposing and frightening character. He’s a character that works with deception but is structured differently then what one would expect. Howard is immediately shown as an imposing and menacing force through his erratic behavior, paranoia and slight arrogance. What scares me about this character is how real he is. he is prone to anger and violence which will erupt out of nowhere over little things. It’s worse in the cool down period as he seems to have grown warm to Michelle and Emmett but of course this is only a charade, a ticking time bomb that could go off at any second. His behavior, rage and deception is what make Howard such a terrifying character.
Emmett is a likable character and an interesting one at that. He’s kind and very sympathetic but what I find interesting is how he seems to be different from Michelle and Howard. He’s the polar opposite of Howard, kind and caring but is too trusting unlike Michelle. He’s the lighthearted aspect of this film, the last shred of humanity whereas Michelle is desperation and Howard is violence.
Acting for 10 Cloverfield Lane is fantastic
Mary Elizabeth Winstead gives a great performance as Michelle. Winstead is easily convincing in her role and why not? Michelle is a very strong character and Winstead has played similar characters before and did so splendidly so this is an easy role for her to slip into. Winstead is wonderful throughout and works very well with her co-stars.
John Gallagher Jr. does very well as Emmett. Gallagher Jr. gives a more light and humorous performance as Emmett which allows him to stand out among his stronger co-stars. He fits very well with his character and is wonderfully at odds end with Goodman throughout the film.
Of course the real show stopper here is John Goodman as Howard. This is easily one of the finest performances of his career as Goodman is absolutely frightening. His moments of rage come off as realistic and caused me not only to jump a number of times but even draw away as much as I could in these moments. Even his quiet moments are unsettling as he plays Howard as completely unstable while at times adding a darkly humorous touch to his mannerisms and body language. Goodman gives an excellent performance and lends much of the horror of this film all by himself.
Final Thoughts: 10 Cloverfield Lane is a fantastic film. The story is well written being tense and frightening throughout with a crazy and entertaining conclusion, the characters are well written and the acting is phenomenal especially from Goodman. It is an engaging and gripping film from start to finish, one that never lets go even when the credits begin to roll.