Two months ago, it was revealed Dan Trachtenberg‘s directorial debut was a “spiritual” sequel to Cloverfield. The audience I saw 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi with were left both confused and excited by the trailer‘s title card. The question all along — well, actually just for the past two months — has been: how much of a sequel is this movie? Now we know. Kind of.
Please note that spoilers are encouraged in the comments section for this post. If you have not seen 10 Cloverfield Lane, we encourage you to return once you have.
FINAL WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD AND IN THE COMMENTS.
The first hour and a half of 10 Cloverfield Lane is thrilling. The opening sets the tone perfectly, mixing together a strong blend of mystery and drama. We don’t need to know what Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is exactly struggling with at the start of the film — because all we need to know is that, again, she’s running away from another tough situation. She’s clearly having a bad day, but her day gets significantly worse when she’s struck by a car and wakes up in Howard’s (John Goodman) bunker.
Once again, things take a turn for the worse: she learns everyone outside is dead, or at least that’s what Howard tells her.
Michelle is a completely engaging protagonist, both weak and strong in her own ways, and Winstead is remarkable in the role. As loud as 10 Cloverfield Lane can be, thanks in part to Bear McCreary‘s often sinister score, the silences are as effective as the bangs, if not more so. It’s exciting to see Michelle’s mind at work, trying to piece together her escape plan. Winstead, again and again, expresses plenty of emotion through silence — and the same can be said for her equally compelling co-stars, John Goodman and John Gallagher, Jr..
Goodman is a force to be reckoned with in 10 Cloverfield Lane. Trachtenberg perfectly utilizes Goodman’s appeal, taking full advantage of his charm and dominant presence. In the end, Howard is the monster of 10 Cloverfield Lane — a monstrous, creepy sad sack of a man. Before getting to the other monsters, it must be said Goodman is also very funny in 10 Cloverfield Lane. During a poignant and honest exchange, in which Michelle and Emmett (Gallagher) discuss past regrets, Frank says he regrets nothing, which is both hilarious and telling.
The bunker is home to laughs, drama, and suspense. Trachtenberg, DP Jeff Cutter, and production designer Ramsey Avery make the bunker both dangerous and cozy, and ultimately like one big fun game of mousetrap. Once the film leaves the bunker, that’s where it runs into a little trouble.
The script, written by Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, and Damien Chazelle, goes off the rails a little bit at the end. It’s a fun finale, but considering the high-caliber drama and thrills that came before it, it’s a somewhat frustrating turn, like the story had to get to the (possible) Cloverfield connection. But the real problem is this movie didn’t need to go big at the end. Yes, the aliens lead to the crucial ending — Michelle going to help others — but Michelle fighting an alien isn’t as suspenseful or as dramatic as the protagonist’s confrontation with Howard.
Some Cloverfield fans might drive themselves nuts trying to figure out how this is a sequel. Ultimately, 10 Cloverfield Lane, as J.J. Abrams told us, isn’t really a sequel. Because of the title, some might come away disappointed by the lack of answers — or “clarity,” depending on how you look at it — but that shouldn’t detract too much from the experience. A few frustrations aside, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a very clever, character-driven thriller, one that shows we should keep an eye on director Dan Trachtenberg; he can even make a shot of John Goodman just eating cream send chills down your spine.
Now that you’ve had a chance to see the film, we’d love to hear what you thought. Please sound off below, where, again, spoilers are encouraged.Cool Posts From Around the Web: