Just over eight years ago, Cloverfield was released. It debuted just a few months after some of the best viral marketing ever seen for a movie (other than Blair Witch Project). The trailers teased what could possibly decapitate the Statue of Liberty. All in all, it was a modern monster movie in the found footage genre, back when it wasn’t an extremely tired formula. To be sure, Cloverfield gave you motion sickness, but it was also a great theater experience. That said, it didn’t feel like a catapult to a franchise.
Which is why movie fans were taken completely by surprise when JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot recently released a surprise trailer for “10 Cloverfield Lane.” The trailer was more than mysterious and seemingly had nothing to do with the original movie. Now, just two short months later, we get the see the final result of that tease. I wish more movies were surprises like this.
In 10 Cloverfield Lane, we follow Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead or MEW, for short). She has clearly gone through a personal crisis and is looking to get away from her current life. Unfortunately, this happens all too soon. Early on, she is involved in a car accident and wakes up locked in, what appears to be, a dingy basement. She soon meets Howard, an off-kilter prepper, that informs her that the end of the world has already happened and danger lurks just outside the doors to the bunker where they are kept.
I’m going to leave the synopsis just where the trailers do. Thankfully, the majority of what the trailers showed are only seen in the first act of the movie. 10 Cloverfield Lane has the knack to leave you guessing the whole time. You’ll forget that the title even references a movie about a giant monster’s attack on New York because you will be so worried about the welfare of Michelle and the other bunker citizen, Emmett (John Gallagher Jr).
Which brings us back to John Goodman as Howard. Good night! Goodman absolutely slays the role as a man who has seen, planned and prepared for the worst. Just imagine spending a long period of time cooped up in a semi-small space with a socially-unaware control freak and you’ll get a glimpse of Michelle’s plight. Goodman plays this character so well, that he will constantly keep you guessing. When you aren’t on edge about Howard’s unpredictable behavior, you actually see how Michelle could feel bad for him and even be grateful for him at times. John Goodman never disappoints, but this is the type of role that Goodman should be recognized for.
MEW is also perfect for the role. Michelle is an extremely resourceful woman who thinks out every situation logically. Well, except for conspiring and whispering about someone who lives in the same small bunker. This isn’t Friends or a soap opera, you can’t just whisper about someone a few feet away and hope they don’t hear.
This is Dan Trachtenberg’s first feature film as director. With 10 Cloverfield Lane, he shows a great scope that ranges from Hitchcockian scenes of tension to Spielberg’s framing of characters and memorable shots. I can’t wait to see what he works on next.
Oh, and if it wasn’t clear by the screenshots or trailers, this is not a found footage movie, so breathe a sigh of relief.
There are a few drastic tonal shifts that may leave a bad taste in your mouth, but 10 Cloverfield Lane guarantees you’ll squirm, laugh, cheer and even get a bit scared. More than anything, you’ll constantly be entertained. B+