“After getting in a car accident, a woman is held in a shelter with two men, who claim the outside world is affected by a widespread chemical attack.”
It would seem that my ability to catch movies in theatres, even those that are pretty positively reviewed, has been pretty lackluster lately, and this was no exception. With that said I finally got around to seeing 10 Cloverfield Lane, after a lot of polarizing reviews, and complaints about the tenuous connection to J.J. Abrahms 2008 film, I wasn’t completely sure what I was in for. Thankfully, this film is an extremely tense and satisfying experience, one that I didn’t even find ruined by knowing the ending before hand. That said, I won’t be spoiling the ending during this review, so worry not.
10 Cloverfield Lane is the feature debut for director Dan Trachtenberg, and was originally titled The Cellar. While the title does set some expectations for the film, it’s a kind of hybrid of what you would expect. Trachtenberg has proven his chops as a fantastic director, having pulled some fabulous performances out of his cast, and working within the claustrophobic environment better than any movie since The Descent. This was also the debut of writers Josh Campbell and Matthew Stuecken, with a little help from Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, Grand Piano). Together, this creative bunch have crafted a tense, tight, and frightening little movie.
Like any movie that takes place in one small location, so much of the effectiveness relies on the performances, and 10 Cloverfield Lane hits exactly the right notes in that department. The cast is small, but extremely strong and dynamic; led by an absolute powerhouse in John Goodman (The Big Lebowski), with Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs the World) and John Gallagher (Short Term 12) creating very believable performance and an electric on-screen chemistry. Goodman’s character has an air of menace about him from the beginning, and I found myself nervous to trust him, even after Winstead and him establish some trust and rapport. He essentially plays his character the same way, but the more that is learned about him, the air of menace around him seems to change. Mary Elizabeth’s portrayal is strong, and her character is resourceful, strong, and a she gives very interesting and believable performance.
This is one of those movies that is kind of hard to talk about without getting too deep into the plot details, and it’s also a movie that you should see knowing pretty little. So, with that said, if you have gotten this far and really don’t want to know anything else, stop reading and go watch the movie. It’s a great movie that you should see, no question about that.
Still here? I’m going to assume you’re cool with me talking a bit about the end of the movie then. I won’t be terribly specific, but there will be some details, so brace yourself.
My biggest complaint about 10 Cloverfield Lane is the ending. I don’t know how much of it was in the original script, or how much came with the rewrites and the additions of Cloverfield to the title, but whatever the case is, the ending feels like the ending, or the beginning even, of an entirely different movie. The first two acts of the film set up a really interesting thriller, that kept me wondering what was really going on. The mystery that unfolds is effective, and makes for a really tense movie. There is also the issue of a subplot involving Goodman’s family that almost feels half resolved, in favour of the tie-in ending.
The idea that you’re not sure if Goodman is crazy and dangerous, or if he’s really trying to save the other two from a nuclear fallout makes for great conflict, and kept me guessing. Then the ending happens, and I didn’t feel especially satisfied by it. It might create some kind of Cloverfield connection, but it really didn’t need to, and the ending almost ruins the goodwill and fabulous storytelling that the movie builds up to that point.
Almost, but not entirely. I guess the biggest issues is that the movie doesn’t gain anything by ending in the way it does, it works perfectly without it, and only seems to set up something else by going in that way.
If you haven’t already checked this movie out, you should. It’s a solid movie and completely deserving of your time, and your dissection. 10 Cloverfield Lane is absolutely one of the better movies that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this year, hopefully you’ll feel the same.
MY RATING: ****