10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) (PG-13)
This review contains SPOILERS!
I am not familiar with any franchise that "10 Cloverfield Lane" belongs to. Any other movies besides this one have not been seen by me. Maybe that's an issue and maybe not; but I think having not explicitly known exactly where the movie was going before walking into it was actually part of the appeal of this film. Most of the time prequels and sequels and companion pieces feel too bound to the source material and then cater to the original, the book, or the first film.
But then you have something like this which, although tying in at the end to a greater narrative, is a stand alone movie. Serving as a genesis story, assumedly, "10 Cloverfield Lane" works as a thriller first and foremost.
Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is running away from her fiancee. The first five minutes of the film are told without sound, as the audience watches her pack up, make a few phone calls, and leave her ring behind. It isn't clear what has happened or who is at fault, but soon she is out of the city and driving into the countryside, stopping only to get more fuel.
And then she crashes her car and wakes up in a strange room chained to a pipe.
Without giving all the juicy details away, although it's hard to talk about the concepts the movie evokes without spoiling every last aspect of it, Michelle finds herself under the care of a man named Howard (John Goodman). She and another man named Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.), are injured and begin to live with Howard as mystery upon mystery falls down on them to solve.
"10 Cloverfield Lane" is not an immediate success. There is some cheap movie making and some awkward moments that are supposed to make us feel things as viewers. Instead of being genuine, it feels necessary in a required sense. We all know that the characters have to get backstory at some point because otherwise apparently we wouldn't care for them and yet the film may realize that there are strengths in not explaining everything...strengths in realism.
Michelle finds herself at the center of multiple conspiracy theories, mysteries, and perhaps even crimes. The film easily recreates the sensation of being caught in a pressure cooker. Claustrophobia? Check. Insanity? Check. Ruthlessness? Check.
And yet, for being so accessible to audiences (note the PG-13) rating, the film never compromises its grit, integrity, or horror.
By the end, you may feel cheated by it all; but "10 Cloverfield Lane" is not a rubix cube. This is popcorn entertainment pure and simple and I don't remember being so pleased by something as smart and well-executed as this.
The performances are great, particularly an unhinged John Goodman, finally movie a blockbuster cash-in on what the Coen brothers have been utilizing for years. What I have to really applaud is J.J. Abrams' production placing virtual unknowns at the helm of what turned out to be a pretty successful movie. Dan Trachtenberg has made no other movies of this caliber and the writing team is mostly comprised of previous editors.
Movies like this are solid and fun and help usher in new talent to the mainstream film world. If this is the of blockbuster movies, count me in.
Posted by Micah Jones