MOVIE REVIEW: Run, don’t walk, to see ’10 Cloverfield Lane’

10 cloverfield

Film: 10 Cloverfield Lane
Directed by: Dan Trachtenberg
Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, John Gallagher Jr.

It’s been 8 years since the original Cloverfield took theaters by storm. I fondly look back on opening night when my father and brother had no idea what they were about to watch, having seen none of the trailers. I could hear them squirming in their seats out of fear. I can’t imagine their reactions, or anyone else’s, being any different with 10 Cloverfield Lane. Sure, it’s sporting that direct callout to the 2008 hit right in the title but it barely has anything to do with the original material. If anything, that notoriety in the name will help get butts in seats for what is one of the best movies of 2016 thus far. It’s claustrophobic, terrifying, terrifically-made and will have you clapping by the time the credits roll.

If you can’t tell from the previews, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a film shrouded in mystery, and rightfully so. Here’s the gist: Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) gets in a car crash and wakes up strapped to a pipe in the basement of a doomsday prepper’s bunker. That prepper being Howard (John Goodman), a paranoid person who believes the outside earth has been scorched after a nuclear attack—or aliens—he has a couple of theories. Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), a local yokel, also managed to get into the bunker as the supposed attack was happening. Now, Michelle and Emmett don’t exactly take Howard’s word as gospel and plan to escape. But what is waiting for them outside, if anything?

10 Cloverfield Lane is a difficult movie to write about because even the most broad of statements about the story will push the viewer to keep guessing and guessing at what will actually happen. Luckily though, director/writer Dan Trachtenberg does really well with playing with audience preconceptions. As someone who hounded the internet after witnessing that first trailer before 13 Hours and has thought much more than a normal amount about Cloverfield, you probably won’t see the twists coming here. They’re so carefully doled out that you may end up being as thirsty for more as I was once the credits came up.

This is really confident filmmaking, too. Trachtenberg understands the claustrophobia of such a setting and even takes a jab at the psychological degradation that can become of such a terrifying concept. So many times have we seen post-apocalyptic shenanigans drive people crazy, but this time it’s the characters’ respective consciousnesses that drives the story. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a thriller at its core. It has a destination but is in no rush to get there. The juice is most certainly worth the squeeze here, though, and the three leads are so committed to the concept that you can’t help but be entertained.

Winstead is pitch perfect as Michelle, someone running from her past but stumbling into something wholly unprecedented. Her character in itself can now join the legions of strong female heroines in horror cinema. The same goes for Goodman’s Howard, taking a rightful spot next to horror antagonists. The constant emotional pushing and pulling you feel for Howard and his obsessiveness subscribes to the whole “people are monsters” way of thinking but without shoving it down. 10 Cloverfield Lane is about things, but the way it goes about those things is what makes it next-level greatness.

This weekend: if you crave something that’ll jolt you and have you chomping at the bit for every morsel of plot yet to be uncovered, then 10 Cloverfield Lane is your best bet. Forget the namesake and you’ll still find yourself experiencing something major, and not just because it’s Trachtenberg’s first feature.

GRADE: A-

Sam Cohen

Sam Cohen is that guy you can't have a conversation with without bringing up Michael Mann. He is also incapable of separating himself from his teenage angst (looking at you, Yellowcard). Read on as he tries to formulate words about movies!
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