Mark this one down as a sequel that is leagues above the original.
“10 Cloverfield Lane” is a kinda, sorta, not-really-but-still sequel to 2008’s “Cloverfield,” a found footage movie that is still being debated among people today whether it is brilliant or awful (it’s awful). Instead of being a found footage monster movie, “10 Cloverfield Lane” follows a young woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who wakes up in an underground bunker with two men (John Goodman and John Gallagher, Jr) who claim the outside world has fallen victim to a nuclear attack. Dan Trachtenberg makes his directorial debut as J.J. Abrams produces.
The behind-the-scenes story of “10 Cloverfield Lane” is interesting. Abrams and his team have been discussing a “Cloverfield” sequel for the past eight years, and they actually filmed most all of this film under the working title “The Cellar.” It wasn’t until near the end of production that Abrams noticed a similar tone and feel to “Cloverfield,” so he slapped the title on the poster. This past January when the first trailer dropped, I made it through the entire thing thinking it was just an original hostage film, but when the title came on screen I, like most everyone, was floored and wondered how a film like this could have been kept a secret for so long; that’s brilliant marketing. But intriguing backstories don’t always lead to good films (see: “Fantastic Four”), so is “10 Cloverfield Lane” any good? Yeah. For the most part it’s pretty good.
John Goodman is universally loved and consistently is the best part of any film he is in. He stole the show in last year’s “Trumbo” (a film that included an Oscar nominated turn from Bryan Cranston) and was arguably the most fun of the Academy Award-winning “Argo.” It’s way, way too early to be talking about 2017 award season, but right now I would love to see Goodman get some recognition for his work here; he’s really that good. He plays a man who claims to have saved Winstead and Gallagher, Jr. from a nuclear apocalypse, but we don’t know if he is telling the truth; we know only what Winstead knows. Goodman’s emotions and tone change on a dime, going from angry to calm, from skeptical to embracing. I really don’t want to give too much away but he steals every scene, and when he is not on screen you are uneasy about his lack of presence.
Rookie director Trachtenberg strings together some incredibly intense sequences, including one very claustrophobic scene inside a vent that had me squirming in my seat. He knows how to frame a shot to get the most from his actor’s facial expressions and placement in a room. His future is bright.
The biggest problem I have with the film is its ending. The entire film keeps building tension and stretching the rubber band, and we wait for the inevitable snapping that never comes. We get some answers, but not enough for my liking. I really can’t voice exactly what in particular didn’t work for me involving the film’s climax without spoiling things, but it is one of those things that will be polarizing among audiences.
“10 Cloverfield Lane” is a solid example of how to build tension and craft a sense of uneasiness, and features some solid performances including amazing work from John Goodman. It couldn’t perfectly stick the landing, which is a shame, but I still enjoyed 90% of the film, and it’s an experience that’ll likely stick with me for a while.
Critics Rating: 7/10