10 Cloverfield Lane
I want to tell two stories before we get into the actual movie. Both are about the reveal of 10 Cloverfield Lane and its predecessor. Let's start chronologically:
July of 2007, I was twelve and sitting in the theater eager to see Transformers. The trailers began to play, and the reveal trailer for Cloverfield played in front of it. There wasn’t much to it. The found footage style threw me for a moment, especially not having seen or even really knowing about The Blair Witch Project. So when the trailer started showing the panic in New York and then showing the now iconic shot of the head of the Statue Of Liberty landing in the streets of Manhattan, and then ended - no title card; nothing - I really couldn’t believe what I saw. I was floored. I remember coming out of that theater two hours later thinking about how awesome Transformers was (again, I was twelve), and how nuts that trailer was. At the time, I had no idea that everyone else had a very similar reaction to that trailer. It came out of nowhere and captured everyone’s attention.
Jump ahead eight years, to a time when everyone makes a living off of exclusives. A time when every original idea is buried by sequels, reboots, and remakes. When the reveal trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane popped up on my Facebook newsfeed, I had mixed emotions, Cloverfield being a movie that I had really enjoyed but never quite let other people know, considering the majority of people were let down after the incredible viral marketing campaign. Yet the notion of a sequel was already hindering my opinion before viewing. It was an interesting trailer. Not much was shown, but there was enough to tell it would, maybe, be decent. I asked myself how no one saw this coming. I browsed around to see what other people thought, and found my answer on Reddit. One redditor said that they had seen the movie at a small film festival under a different name. Another user backed them up, adding that Paramount picked up the movie after it was made, feared it wouldn’t make money, then decided to spend a few million on rewrites and reshoots.
And so, we have 10 Cloverfield Lane. Knowing all of that, and the later snippet from J.J. Abrams that this wouldn’t be a direct sequel, I feel like I went into this with a very level head, and I was consequently pretty surprised. It's not just good; it's better than we deserve after the lukewarm reception to the previous title, and the fact that it's a ‘sequel.’
Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Michelle, a woman who is leaving her fiance after a fight we don’t see. Running away, she is hit by a car in the middle of the night. She later wakes up to find herself in a room of concrete, lying on a mattress on the floor, hooked up to an IV and with her leg in a brace, chained to a pipe. We are soon introduced to John Goodman’s character, Howard. He seems…off. Goodman tells Winstead of an attack in the night that has left the earth’s air toxic and that the only safe place is this doomsday shelter. Goodman says he saved her after finding her car on the side of the road. This is when things get interesting. Minutes later we see Goodman warming up to Winstead, trusting that she won’t hurt him, and unshackles her, as we see in the trailer. This is when we are introduced to John Gallagher Jr.’s character, Emmett. With his arm in a sling, he says Howard did this to him as he tried to close the door to the bunker on him, another encounter we didn’t see.
All of this sets us up for a suspenseful experience trying to decide if Goodman is a good samaritan or something more sinister, and if what they say is true. What surprised me was how consistently Goodman is able to keep us doubting. His character’s stern demeanor is genuine and understandable, but moments of neuroticism are unsettling and sometimes even frightening. Winstead’s performance is possibly her best, but the guys and gals in love with Ramona Flowers of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World may not love it. I also believe that her performance may not have come through if her character was written differently. Winstead’s character is smart. She takes risks most would be afraid to take, that in the end pay off. All it takes is a certain book on a shelf to plant the seed of doubt in her mind. She comes to use it in a genius way. Gallagher’s character, according to a number of reviewers, isn’t as fleshed out as they want. While I understand, because there isn’t as much backstory to him compared with Winstead and Goodman, I think there's enough and shouldn’t necessarily deduct points from the film.
My issues with the movie lie within the third act. If you don’t want it to be spoiled, by all means, skip this paragraph. The third act reveal feels rushed and ultimately a little weightless. Learning that Goodman was sort of right about the toxic air, but didn’t know that the toxins were coming from alien ships trying to wipe out the population. What was good about this was the restraint when it came to see these aliens. You never really get a good look, and when you do, the camera is only focused on one aspect of them that which helped create the tension that should have been created with the reveal. Lastly, the very last scene was a head scratcher. It wasn’t ambiguous or just ended out of nowhere. Winstead is fleeing, after miraculously bringing down an alien ship, and she checks the radio for any transmission. She tunes into the right frequency and picks up an emergency broadcast saying that they are resisting the aliens and winning. The transmission continues to say that civilians should go to Houston for safety, but anyone in the military or has combat experience to go to Baton Rouge, the frontline. All of this has stopped Winstead at a literal crossroads, with signs pointing out which way to Houston and Baton Rouge. She takes the road to Baton Rouge, some chest pounding music starts playing, and the credits roll. It was so tonally inconsistent with the rest of the movie, it took me out of it, but I guess that good because the movie was over? I don’t know, all I know is that I’m already dreading this part for when I decide to see this again. While we’re into spoilers, I’ll say that the only possible connection I see to Cloverfield was that Goodman was retired and used to work on satellites. Is it the very same satellite that crashed into the ocean at the very end of Cloverfield, waking the Cloverfield creature? We don’t know, and I don’t think we’ll ever know.
Will I see this movie again in theaters? Most likely. It was entertaining, intense, and I bet another viewing will reveal some details that either I completely missed, or that will only make sense with the second viewing. Lastly, the movie is ninety-nine percent connected to the previous movie by title alone, so if you were expecting to somehow pick up where Rob and Beth left off in the previous film - which is dead under a bridge in Central Park after the military’s last-ditch effort to kill the creature by dropping a nuke, by the way - you’ll probably be disappointed.
"Curtains" is where you can catch movie reviews by the Metal Lifestyle staff.