10 Cloverfield Lane is a peculiar film to discuss. Despite taking its name and a few thematic elements from the 2008 found footage disaster/monster flick, it's an entirely original tale using Cloverfield's DNA to reveal its own anthology style thriller. Alongside producer J.J. Abrams, director Dan Trachtenberg makes an auspicious feature film debut and shows a confidently assured hand at balancing dramatic thrills and effective stylistic touches to captivate audiences.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead is absolutely bad ass and continues to show her range as not only a gifted dramatic actress, but also, a charismatic action lead. Her Michelle character is a whip smart protagonist trapped in a perilous situation and by her immediate surroundings after waking up in a underground shelter after a mysterious car accident. Opposing her, John Goodman gives an incredibly eerie performance as a paranoid survivalist who alternates between being genuinely earnest and flat out terrifying. Added to the mix is John Gallagher, Jr. as a good ol' Louisiana boy just hoping to survive and plays middle man between the other two.
Essentially a three-hander of a film, the trio are secluded together underground safely waiting out whatever unknown disaster happened above ground. Their dynamic and ultimate character interactions play out beautifully as secrets lie everywhere and we're never sure what to believe as Trachtenberg keeps the audience in a perpetual state of suspense as to what dangers and thrills await our characters apart from each other.
From an original story/screenplay by Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken, and subsequently rewritten by Whiplash writer/director Damien Chazelle, the film features a fairly straightforward narrative full of smart turns and character moments highlighting the trauma and humanity our three characters face trapped together without much information about the dangers outside. Characters ask the same questions we do while exploring suspicions raised organically through logic and reason.
10 Cloverfiled Lane is a highly effective and original thriller using various genre movie conventions and simple camera tricks to keep the viewer on their toes. For those wondering, no knowledge of Cloverfield is at all necessary and this film never reveals or elaborates on any further monster mythology. It's hard not to think the film would be improved without the baggage of its title as it succeeds on its own and mostly elevates its genre material.
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