10 Cloverfield Lane, 2016
Directed by: Dan Trachtenberg
Starring: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr.
After a car crash sends her off the road, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wakes up chained and locked inside an underground room, only to be told by Howard (John Goodman, Argo) that the world above has been bombed and the air is polluted, and that he’s saved her life by locking her here. Initially suspicious about the story, she soon sees a woman outside whose skin is diseased and she is resigned to living underground with Howard and Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), a man of relatively the same age but who is completely confident that being here with Howard is the right decision.
Despite its name, and how it’s told that they’re in the same universe, barely anything, aside from an alien attack, connects Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane, with different aliens used, another alien invasion many years after Cloverfield’s alien invasion, its third-person camera style, rather than the found-footage style used in Cloverfield and a slight change in genre, from an out-and-out alien invasion to a more secluded psychological horror style thriller. For the entirety of the film, despite Howard not really doing anything wrong, we’re suspicious of him like Michelle is. Even when they’re playing happy families and all seem content with their situation there’s an air of mystery surrounding it, with references to Howard’s daughter and pictures of other girls that have obviously been down in the cellar. The entire way the film maintains this air of mystery surrounding Howard, despite his constant offerings of pleasantries and niceness, is brilliant. It even gets to a point where we’re on Howard’s side and are critical of Michelle’s behaviour, but we’re always asking if she’s right, and that’s a credit to Dan Trachtenberg’s directing.
I also loved the small and enclosed setting, preventing us from going outside, much like Michelle, and it plays so much in the mystery surrounding Howard. It acts as both a safe haven and a prison, offering protection from whatever is outside while trapping them inside through their suspicions. It also serves well as they struggle to have any intimate conversations about Howard as at any point he is only ever a few feet away.
I don’t have many criticisms about this film; it is a thoroughly entertaining movie. The writing could have been better (with many foreshadows spoken, such as the flammable liquid) and some of the dialogue is pretty basic, with large ramblings from Howard about how the noises they hear above are definitely North Korean armed forces coming to kill the remaining civilians. He says this so matter-of-factly that is ignores how they are surviving despite the air supposedly being poisonous and about how he can be so confident of his analysis without offering a chance to check.
A very solid somewhat of a sequel to a very solid film. It’s a strange franchise in which with The Cloverfield Paradox it is now officially a trilogy of seemingly unconnected films. Solid acting, with a great lead in John Goodman, and a great element of suspense throughout.
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