After eight long years, we have finally been gifted with a return to J.J. Abrams mysterious “Cloverfield” universe - but not in a way anyone could have expected. The 2008 found-footage monster movie solidified itself as an instant classic for an innovative approach to a well known genre of films. Now, 10 Cloverfield Lane paves the way to achieve success in extremely different methods than its predecessor. The film stars a small cast of professionals including John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr, who have found themselves contained in a small space with endless questions about the outside world. In the beginning, the film opens with minimal dialogue and captivating frames that introduce us to Michelle (Winstead) leaving her previous life with her fiance in the dust. A car accident occurs during mid-credits, and the film tosses us right into Michelle’s growing struggles. Michelle awakens to a barren room in an underground bunker, where a man named Howard (Goodman) has created a post-war shelter to survive a supposed nuclear fallout that began shortly after her accident.
Within moments of her captivity, Michelle is shown to have survival instincts that prove she isn’t a pushover in any capacity. Howard tries his best to explain he only hopes to save her life, in addition to a man named Emmet (Gallagher) but Michelle can’t bring herself to entirely trust the quirky man. From this point on, the film thrives as a thriller that constantly has you guessing if Howard is lying about his motives. The questions surrounding Howard and the outside world played out perfectly by providing glimpses at his personality that may be potentially dangerous – but enough evidence to add some legitimacy to concerns about the outside world. 10 Cloverfield Lane isn’t afraid to take a smaller approach to the “Cloverfield” title, and the overwhelming sense of claustrophobia adds a new layer that hadn’t been entirely depicted.
The tagline for the movie has been indicative of the darkness within humanity, and it feels as effective as it could have been until the very end. I’ll admit it, I desperately hoped for an outright connection to the original Cloverfield, (aside from the Bold Futura reference) but those of you who are in the same boat - prepare yourselves for something completely new. Once you can acknowledge that it’s not in any way a sequel, you can enjoy the narrative of 10 Cloverfield Lane for its own identity. With that being said, I would still like to see J.J. Abrams proposed sequel to the original, or a third film to connect the separate worlds. There isn’t any clear indication of what it could be, but the introduction of a looming threat creates a slew of new inquiries for the expanding Cloverfield universe.
Cloverfield has many instances of character development or growth, however 10 Cloverfield Lane forces characters to evolve by limiting interactions to no more than three individuals. Winstead’s portrayal of Michelle is a prominently positive inclusion to the film by giving us the opportunity to watch her become a remarkable protagonist. Winstead has the ability to evoke emotions simply by her expressions, but her dialogue is delivered with a subtlety that shows the range of her talent. Her interactions with Howard and Emmet show two important and very different layers to the character, and I can’t imagine anyone but Winstead portraying the leading role. Goodman contributes a soft and lovable Howard, effortlessly shifting to a man that creates fear or uncertainty to those around him. Though Emmet’s role in the film doesn’t provide the same importance as the others, he is an extremely enjoyable character in every scene he’s present for. Gallagher plays Emmet as a self-doubting country boy who begins to shift loyalties after bonding with the unique and resourceful Michelle. The actor includes memorable comedic timing in 10 Cloverfield Lane, using him as a leeway into humor to bring some relief to the dramatic plot.
The movie enlists newcomer Dan Trachtenberg as the director, making an iconic debut film to start an inevitably successful career in the business. His vision for the “blood relative” of Cloverfield has a fragmented essence of the original, but blazes its own trail in a much smaller scale approach. The final act of the 10 Cloverfield Lane provides more answers on the fate of the world, it just may not be what you would expect. Some of the die-hard Cloverfield fans may have a difficult time adjusting to the new threat, but as a standalone film (for now) 10 Cloverfield Lane is compelling thriller that should be appreciated for taking a risk, and potentially reintroducing us to J.J. Abrams plans for future Cloverfield stories!
Overall Grade: 8.5/10
I had hoped 10 Cloverfield Lane would draw more parallels to the original film, but regardless, it was an enthralling pulse-pounding mystery that provided spectacular performances and overall production. There wasn’t a single moment that felt unnecessary from the start of the film, making 10 Cloverfield Lane a movie worth watching (or rewatching) for the sheer brilliance of execution. Now that Abrams has graced us with a film in the same vein (to an extent) we can only hope that studios recognize the desire for a follow-up installment to appease our Cloverfield appetite!
Aedan’s Final Thoughts:
- Mary Elizabeth Winstead shines in her role in every way possible.
- I may have loved Emmet, but his relationship with Michelle gave viewers an unspoken romance that made him even more appealing.
- I’m now waiting on a confirmation for a much needed Cloverfield 2 or Cloverfield tie-in film to address the incident with the creature and the survivors of the first film.
- This may be my favorite John Goodman role in his entire career for the complex character he plays.
- The suspense that 10 Cloverfield Lane creates made it one of my favorite thrillers.-That conclusion left me wanting to know what comes next for the new plot.