With a mysterious trailer debuting before the first Transformers film in 2007, the unknown phenomenon of Cloverfield began with a found footage monster movie set in New York. This thrill ride of a film captivated audiences, including me, and left us wanting more and debating with each other and extrapolating what would come next. J.J. Abrams knew exactly what to do when it came to keeping us strung along and shrugged his shoulders and said “we have ideas for what’s next but we’re unsure of the timeline in making that happen.” It was maddening to fans but he did what he wanted to: keep us expectant for a couple years and then it kind of got forgotten after a few years. That was until January of this year.
During some advance screenings for 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of the Benghazi, another trailer debuted, this one depicting three people in a bomb shelter in a tone that goes from happy to sinister and wholly mysterious. To cap this off, the title card reveals itself and the fanboy in me loses his mind: Cloverfield. This then morphs into the full title for the film, 10 Cloverfield Lane, and it’s coming sooner than we could have possibly thought, March 11th, less than two months away. The master of the secret project J.J. Abrams had done it again and made another project to astound audiences again and also leave you scratching your head.
Now, when giving a synopsis of this movie I feel I need to use the same restraint that I did when doing my spoiler free review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens last year, coincidentally also an Abrams related film. So with a limited amount of detail, here we go. Our main focus at first is Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a woman frantically packing a small amount of belongings as she heads out on the road, in a pretty obvious tiff with her boyfriend Ben, who constantly tries to call her as she speeds down the highway in the dark. Her car then loses control and crashes through a guard rail and rolls into a field, which plays brilliantly over the title cards. Everything goes black.
Michelle awakes in a cement room with a locked door, shackled to a pipe on the wall. In her arm is an IV with a saline drip, her leg in a brace and a wound on her forehead. Then the man responsible for her being there enters the room. Howard (John Goodman) introduces himself and tells Michelle that he saved her life but that she can’t leave. He then informs her that there was an attack and the world is uninhabitable due to possible fallout and to keep safe they need to stay where they are, a underground bomb shelter bunker built by Howard. Along with fellow survivor Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), the three are to live out their days together in the claustrophobic living quarters. The question keeps arising to Michelle though, is Howard a savior or a captor? Is what he’s saying true or just an insane ploy to keep her there?
Being called not a sequel but a “blood relative” follow up to Cloverfield, J.J. Abrams and debut feature director Dan Trachtenberg have made an incredibly compelling and pulse pounding mystery thriller that will keep you guessing and on the edge of your seat until the final frame of footage. Is this movie directly in line with the 2008 monster film from which its name comes? No, but what they’ve decided to do with it might be even better. Using Cloverfield in a very subversive way, Cloverfield is almost a blanket term for any other story revolving around a particular event and, if Paramount and Bad Robot want to keep moving in this direction, it could make a fantastic continuing franchise that will consistently thrill on a Twilight Zone style level.
As top notch as the story, script and direction is, if the actors didn’t bring their A-game then this film would be lost, as it is very much a character piece. John Goodman may have delivered one of the greatest performances of his career in a film that no one probably expected to have something of this caliber. I kept thinking throughout “Man, someone’s got to give Goodman an award.” Playing equally well is Winstead, going through great emotional changes as the captive trying to get to the truth of her situation and Gallagher Jr. as a very “aw shucks” kind of farm boy who is really just trying to make the best out of a bad situation.
Again, just like Cloverfield before it, this film gives a fascinating debut to a director that has a big future ahead of them. The first film exposed us to Matt Reeves, an Abrams protege, who was since done the impossible and made a nonredundant remake of the incredible Swedish film Let The Right One In as well as a great sequel to the Planet of the Apes reboot. Now we have Dan Trachtenberg, who’s previous work was a short film based on the video game Portal that went viral a while ago. All eyes will now be on what he does next as this film should open many doors for him.
My hope is that people will flock to this movie, at first the moviegoers keen on the intriguing mystery surrounding it and the fans of the first film, gripping their tickets with white knuckled excitement. Then with the word of mouth of how great this film really is, the box office may pick up some steam because, really, how often do films like this get made? I really think it could be an interesting way for studios to do mystery films like this, with limited plot and story exposure and a more visual lure to viewers. I think Paramount has another bonafide hit here with 10 Cloverfield Lane and it’s up to you, my reader, to prove me right or wrong. I give this a five out of five.