Monday, March 28, 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane Review

10 Cloverfield Lane Review
If you are expecting a direct sequel to "Cloverfield" with "10 Cloverfield Lane," then you've probably been disappointed already if you've seen "10 Cloverfield Lane" or you will be. But when producer J.J. .Abrams talked about the movie being a "spiritual successor" or a "blood relative," that is what got me thinking the most. Yes, this is a different story. Yes, its with different characters and different monsters and no connection to the characters from "Cloverfield." I have already noticed that has driven some people nuts, but I am actually drawn to what J.J. Abrams and director Dan Trachtenberg have concocted. If you pay close attention, you will see subtle parallels between "Cloverfield" and "10 Cloverfield Lane," just nothing directly connected. Yes, you maybe letdown, but that is the run of it that I got after a first viewing.

I got to say though, most of the rest of the movie is pretty good. When Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) picks up her stuff and leaves in the middle of an edgy relationship with a boyfriend (we hear the voice of Bradley Cooper in a cell phone message), Michelle suddenly finds herself the victim of a car accident. When she wakes up, she is handcuffed to a bed and living in an underground bunker with a man named Howard (John Goodman). Howard is trying to help her recuperate from her wounds of the car crash and he tells her that there was some kind of nuclear or chemical attack that has left the rest of the world's population dead or dying. Michelle is reluctant to trust Howard. But when she sees first-hand a woman die from an illness and she listens to the stories of another survivor named Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), then she gives into their stories. Even when she believes what she sees, nothing is what it seems.

Most of the movie works as a much better version of "The Divide" from 2011. Much like "10 Cloverfield Lane," "The Divide" was a thriller about people surviving in an underground bunker and how not everybody was how they seem. The problem with "The Divide" was that it was a dark story just for the sake of being dark and it was painted in such broad strokes that it came off kind of ridiculous. In "10 Cloverfield Lane," a magnificent build of tension grows within the whole movie. I also have to give the movie credit for making believable characters, which always seem absent in thrillers like these. From the moment Michelle wakes up from the accident, she is proactive about keeping herself alive and trying to create an escape plan. She isn't some kind of damsel in distress or someone discouraged or distraught. She has a good mind and she is always thinking. I loved that about her character.

The work done by Winstead, Goodman and Gallagher Jr. is all quite impressive. When you are working with a cast that is as small as this one is, the performances need to be top-notch across the board. Make no mistake, the performances are top-notch across the board. We have seen similar work from Goodman in the past, but every time he plays a hard-headed, stubborn, creepy son-of-a-bitch, he always seem to bring something new to the table and that's true here. Winstead has taken on quite a variety of roles and I like that she plays such a strong character here, and sells every bit of what she's doing.

Then there is that crazy ending. Honestly, I liked it and I wish that  the movie was about twenty to thirty minutes longer so we could spend more time with the twist. I am sure some people will bash what happens because its such a major departure from the rest of the film. But this is a movie with the word Cloverfield in the title. Of course some big science-fiction fun was awaiting us. Once again, its not the same stuff we saw in the first "Cloverfield" movie, and I know that has bugged people. But I am rather curious to see where this franchise goes from here. I am curious to see if the Cloverfield movies will be a theatrical "Twilight Zone" with each new movie dealing with the same science fiction based storytelling, but a different story and with different characters every time. But maybe J.J. Abrams has a bigger game involved and a way to connect all the movies in some form is on the horizon. All I know is that I am actually excited to see what happens here.

But even without the science fiction ending, "10 Cloverfield Lane" is still a claustrophobic, suspenseful little thriller. It is brought to life by a small group of good actors. Plus, its got a fun ending, so there isn't much to go wrong here. Just don't be too disappointed if you take the "Cloverfield" in the title a little too literally.

FINAL GRADE: A-

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