10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) Movie Review

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So, I know this review is coming to you a little late.  I missed it the first week it was released and I haven’t gotten around to viewing it until just recently.  I really wanted to see it because of the positive word of mouth and because I do enjoy the original “Cloverfield” (and the clever unveiling of this secret movie only a few months away from the release date).

The original “Cloverfield” is an interesting little movie. It was a J.J. Abrams produced movie (who would go on to revive three major franchises), the script was written by relative unknown Drew Goddard (who would late go to direct “Cabin in the Woods” and create the Netflix series “Daredevil”) and was directed by newcomer Matt Reeves (who would go on to direct the masterful “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”).  The point being the original film did help give us major talents (and if you want you could include T.J. Miller on that list, I suppose you can). But to be fair Abrams was already a major talent but I think the original “Cloverfield” showcased his knack for producing some strong products without him in the director’s chair.  The follow up film “10 Cloverfield Lane” is sure to do the same thing with first time director  Dan Trachtenberg (he does that well here) . It really looks like this series has a knack for developing great talent.

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“10 Cloverfield Lane” has been described as a sister movie to the first film and I think that’s a fair description.  This movie makes little to any reference to the 2008 “Cloverfield”.  There is like one or two Easter eggs that hint or nod towards that one but for the most part this is treated very much as its own thing. This will and already has angered some fans of the original; claiming that the title was only a move by the studio to make money off the brand name.  Perhaps this will become the direction of the series from now on?  An anthology film set that unique onto itself but in the same genre as the previous ones? I don’t think we have a film series quite like that.

So what’s the story?  “10 Cloverfield Lane” follows a young woman named Michelle who suddenly awakens inside a bunker after a car accident.  The owner of the bunker claims there was an attack of some sort and the air is now toxic, everyone she knows is dead and she has to stay in the bunker.  She isn’t’ quite sure if she can believe him and is trapped with another young man named Emmitt and the three of them attempt to survive in this bunker together.

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE

I know this movie has been out for a while, but I will still steer away from spoilers for those that haven’t seen it, because it’s simply worth seeing with as little information as possible.  I digress.  As you can tell (if you’ve seen the original) there isn’t much there that carries over from that movie.  If you can accept that and move on from what might be an initial disappointment then you will have a great time with this movie.  “10 Cloverfield Lane” is a taut, tense and claustrophobic thriller that’ll have you on your toes until the very end.

This is the type of movie that absolutely lives and dies from its directing, acting and writing.  If even one of those doesn’t work this entire movie could fall apart.   Luckily all three of those things do work and actually work well.  All three of the main actors are really good in this movie.  Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a fantastic and believable lead.  She is strong and determined but she isn’t perfect and has some flaws that makes her more interesting.  John Gallagher Jr. is a really good companion to her and also has a good performance.  His naive nature is a good counterpoint to her investigative nature.  The characters feel different from one another and the differences make for a compelling and interesting pair.

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The movie is directed by Dan Trachtenberg working off a script by Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken and Damien Chazelle (who wrote and directed “Whiplash”).  Trachtenberg dramatizes the movie with a tension filled air.  You’ll be consistently guessing what might come next, what is really going on.  But, you never feel like you have the answer of what will happen next.  The movie is slower but you never bored.  You’re always invested into what’s happening.  The dialogue is great, and the direction from Trachtenberg is something you expect from a director in his third or fourth movie not his first.

The biggest weakness of the movie is the final act.  I know for some this ending will work for them.  In many respects I like certain aspects of it.  Without giving too much away this movie does have a sort of “Twilight Zone” feel to it.  So, in that regard the ending isn’t bad.  But, I don’t think it lives up to the promise of the rest of the movie.  It also at times feels at odds with the movie’s tone and comes across like something from another movie.  Again, it’s not a bad ending but I do feel conflicted about.  With movies like this that are so built around it’s build up, it’s hard to deliver on the promise of your first couple of acts.

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Then again I feel the ending of the first “Cloverfield” wasn’t the greatest either (and I do like that movie too).   But I actually have to say this is the better entry between them.  That would be sacrilegious for some but this was a surprise to me as well.  I thought the movie would be good but not this great. And to be fair again these two movies couldn’t be more different.  I think I am more attracted to the atmosphere and quiet tension of “10 Cloverfield Lane” as oppose to the large and exciting monster movie of the 2008 “Cloverfield”.  In any event I can’t wait to see what Trachtenberg does with his next movie. And I’m really intrigued on where the “Cloverfield” series goes from here.

Final Score

8.5/10

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