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10 Cloverfield Lane - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
cinema_holic
cinema_holic
10 Cloverfield Lane
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Directing: B+
Acting: B+
Writing: B+
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B+
Special Effects: B



"Love" is probably too strong a word for how I feel about 10 Cloverfield Lane overall, but there are certainly things I love about it. I love producer J.J. Abrams's insistence on secrecy; no one even knew about this movie more than a couple of months ago. I love that the trailer, while showing a few brief clips from the second half of the movie, still reveals nothing whatsoever about the plot in the second half of the movie. In fact the trailer is misleading, and I love that too. I love that the experience of the film, once you're there and sitting through it, is a continuous surprise. You have no idea where it's going, and it goes in directions you never expect based on the events of the first half of the story.

Abrams has reportedly called this a "blood relative" of his fantastic 2008 film Cloverfield, perhaps in a somewhat coy attempt at deterring audiences from thinking of it as a sequel. The opening title of the movie makes the connection pretty clear, since the first thing you see is just the word CLOVERFIELD, before the 10 and the LANE appear above and below it. But what is the connection, exactly? Even hinting at that here would certainly spoil the fun.

It would certainly seem at first to be pretty far removed from the original movie, which was set in Manhattan and presented in the "found footage" style that had long been overdone even by then. It just happened to be gripping enough and edited well enough to overcome such flaws, or how thematically derivative it was -- in spite of those things, it was still a bit superior as a film to 10 Cloverfield Lane, which, in the end, actually answers some of the questions the original left to mystery. And it was the mystery more than anything that made it work.

When I left the theatre after seeing Cloverfield in 2008, its presentation had been so effective, in spite of it being just a basic monster movie at the end of the day, the friend I had seen it with said, "I feel so . . . vulnerable." The movie was that unnerving. 10 Cloverfield Lane doesn't quite achieve that level of effectiveness, but it does do one thing better by offering fewer characters who each have greater nuance. All the twenty-somethings in Cloverfield were so vapid you were happy to see them get eaten.

The focus this time is much more on a survivalist named Howard, played by John Goodman in one of his best parts, and performances, in years. The point of view, on the other hand, is from Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who finds herself waking up after a car accident, now stuck in a room with her broken leg chained to the wall. Howard insists he's keeping her alive, and she would be dead if not for him. She has no idea if he's telling the truth, and in spite of our knowledge of the story having some connection to Cloverfield, neither do we.

This is pretty impressive, maintaining such mystery even while establishing that these events occur within the same world as another movie. Over time Michelle learns things about Howard that clearly make him dangerous, but have nothing to do with whatever kind of "attack" occurred around his farmland above ground and beyond. He's also got another guy down there with them, Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), who had been hired to help Howard build the shelter and then fought his way inside when whatever went down occurred.

In the end, actually, first time feature director Dan Trachtenberg provides more answers than the original Cloverfield ever did, and there's something disappointing about those answers. None of them take 10 Cloverfield Lane to new places the way the events that lead up to them do. Still, the journey to those answers is a pretty thrilling one, especially once the action kicks into high gear in the movie's climactic sequences. These are the events that I could not in good conscience reveal anything about. It's rare that this occurs with a sequel, or even a pseudo-sequel, but the less you know going in, the better. One could even argue that this movie would work better if you never saw the original Cloverfield. Watch that later, as a pseudo-prequel, instead, and let me know what that's like.

John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr. hunker in a bunker away from an unknown threat in 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE.


Overall: B+
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