10 Cloverfield Lane Thrilling, but Suffers Unnecessary Branding
10 Cloverfield Lane is the surprise sequel to Cloverfield, the 2008 monster movie that came out of nowhere. While in production, 10 Cloverfield Lane was titled Valencia. And there are certainly signs that Valencia was a completed film, and the Cloverfield branding and universe may have been brought in later.
Regardless, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a tight, tense thriller, with great pacing that kept me on the edge of my seat, with stellar performances from its three lead actors.
10 Cloverfield Lane starts quiet and subdued—we see Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) drive away from her life, engagement, and upcoming marriage. The film displays this well without any dialogue, presenting a slow, quiet mood, before abruptly ending Michelle’s journey with a car accident.
The next scene is expertly crafted. Michelle wakes up in a mysterious place and the audience discovers the circumstances of her situation as she does. The camera follows Michelle’s gaze as she sees the room she is in, the brace locked to the wall constraining her in place, then her clothes and belongings across the room. These slow pans unravel the details of the situation expertly and build a sense of dread.
As the plot progresses, we are introduced to Howard (John Goodman) and Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) , who are with Michelle in the cellar. Howard is a doomsday prepper who withholds information and behaves erratically; John Goodman plays the role expertly and creates a complicated and interesting character. Emmett is a good-ol-boy with a heart of gold and creates an interesting foil to Howard and Michelle. The dynamics between these characters are complex and intriguing and are the meat of the movie. The way the film slowly layers on the information is great and builds up to a strong ending.
Unfortunately, that buildup feels squandered. The end of this movie is very disjointed, with a noticeable shift in direction and tone with 20 minutes left that did not sit very well with me. I feel there was a natural stopping point to end the movie in a contained, thematic way, but the story continued with a jarring scene that didn’t sit well with the rest of the narrative.
Overall, 10 Cloverfield Lane is one of the most well executed, tightly wound films I have seen in a long time. It’s claustrophobic, it’s tense, it’s well acted, and it’s enthralling from the moment it begins, and almost all the way through.Grade: B+