“I totally know what’s going on… Wait…”
“Is he crazy?”
“Oh no he isn’t crazy. Wait… is he?”
This will be your thought process as you snuggle up to your popcorn bucket and squeeze your significant other – whether they want you to or not – watching 10 Cloverfield Lane. The film is a wild ride that puts your brain and it’s characters on a heuristic adventure with numerous twists and turns. Let me get this out of the way – 10 Cloverfield Lane is incredible. It executes all the tropes you want from the mystery/horror genre, but also throws wrinkles into the fold making it all feel fresh and exciting.
All about Character
Dan Trachtenberg (Totally Rad Show alum, and director of the fanfilm Portal – No Escape) manages to deliver a dedicated character drama with true insight, accomplishing a narrative that thrives in suspense and wonderment. All of this hinges on and is successful due to the interaction between the trio of main characters in the film. Michelle, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, wakes up after a terrible accident to find that she’s locked in a bunker with a man who insists that the outside world is affected by a widespread chemical attack and that he saved her life. Uncertain what to believe, Michelle soon determines that she must escape the bunker at any cost. Winstead gives a stellar performance, showcasing dread in harrowing times, but also an intelligence and ingenuity during others – all with very little dialogue to assist. Howard, played by John Goodman, is of particular acclaim as well. Michelle’s ‘sort-of’ captor; he is a doomsday conspiratist not quick to delve any information about the outside world, and it just so happens that his creep factor is on full blast. Goodman delivers an amazing performance that toys with your emotions; not knowing if he really is crazy or if he’s telling a harsh truth that Michelle cannot accept.
A Jig-Saw Thriller
I equate 10 Cloverfield Lane to a puzzle that the audience and Michelle are simultaneously solving together. A film littered with backstory, foreshadowing is key to the film’s subtle structure. Numerous times information is given to the audience, and while at first it might be deemed inconsequential, that knowledge pays off later with epic proportions whether it be ramifications for a character’s actions or a tool to solving another piece in the puzzle that is 10 Cloverfield Lane.
While the overall mystery and reveals would lend praise to the screenwriter (and rightly so), maybe more credit should be given to the execution from Trachtenberg. His big-screen directorial debut exudes a visual style that fits perfect with the film’s intentions – whether it be documentary-style as we shakily follow behind Michelle hoping she reaches safety, or a classic Speilbergian approach as the camera moves in to see what could be behind the curtains.
Relief in Comedy
Did I mention the movie is hilarious? The movie is hilarious. In a good way. The comedy allows the audience to reset after a moment of laughter, so we can be built back up to the hair-raising climaxes throughout the acts. Quips to break the tension, choice dialogue to break the stress, an eclectic soundtrack radiating from a jukebox juxtaposing the underlying turbulence; these are just a few examples where the movie shines at taking us on an emotional roller coaster – and it happens all in this cellar.
What’s Behind the Door?
Who is telling the truth? What lies beyond the cement walls? These are the questions that 10 Cloverfield Lane begs you to ask. To avoid spoilers at all cost; let me just say that it pays off. It answers the questions and more. It leaves you wanting more.
Perhaps the expectations from this type of movie would lend itself to a briefer summarized ending. Or maybe some would say they should have left the film’s conclusion and its mysteries on a more open-ending scale. I for one do not. I found it exhilarating and in fact courageous. The creators see their vision through and unabashedly go head-on into it’s abyss.
10 Cloverfield Lane is intelligent; not treating you like a child. The plot moves, the twists turn, and it doesn’t hang back waiting for you to catch up. It just goes like the story demands. And I like that. A lot.