Tuesday, March 15, 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane Review

Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, John Gallagher Jr.
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Length: 103 Minutes

Winstead Outta Hell

I don't think anybody expected a "sequel" to Cloverfield. I certainly didn't. Yet, here it is, like that one guy who keeps showing up to the party, that no one quite knows, but everyone allows because he's mostly inoffensive.

So is this another found footage and Godzilla mash up? Nope. Tonally, visually, and basically fundamentally, this is a different film. More of a thriller than a straight up horror film, 10 Cloverfield Lane is an interesting, if somewhat misguided film, that at the very least opens up the Cloverfield name to potential franchise status.

Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is a young woman facing relationship problems with her fiance, who decides to run from her problems and hit the open road. A freak accident on a lonely highway knocks her unconscious, and she awakes in a doomsday bunker under the paranoid watch of the bunker's owner, Howard (John Goodman). Howard claims that a great calamity has swept away all of human civilization, and that he, his neighbor Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), and Michelle are all that remains. Convinced that Howard is dangerous and that she needs to escape the bunker and learn the truth, Michelle desperately scrambles to survive in a terrifying situation, with no idea if she can ever truly escape to safety.

 The first and most major way that this film differs from its predecessor is the cast. All three actors (yes, there are only three people in this film aside from two small cameos), do a really fantastic job. Winstead embraces the role of heroine, and unlike her performance in the 2011 remake of The Thing, she crafts a likeable, strong, and convincing protagonist. Her performance is very physical, with Michelle constantly crawling, sneaking, or snooping around, and Winstead brings a sense of genuine urgency to her physicality, which helps the film crank up the tension for the first two thirds of its runtime. John Gallagher Jr., while admittedly kept in the background most of the time, delivers a real and touching performance as the meek, but friendly, Emmett.

It's John Goodman who really carries the weight of this film though, and his performance is just damn fantastic. First time director Dan Trachtenberg needed someone to drive the central conflict of the movie, and Goodman creates a very disturbing, mysterious character. Without spoiling too much, a lot of the film's conflict is centered around the ambiguity of Howard's mental state. Is he just a good man in a bad situation, or is he a predator taking advantage of the lawless confines of his underground hideaway? Goodman, under some great direction, pops off the screen and comes to life.

Sadly, for some reason, the film throws all this mystery and intrigue out the window in order to make room for a pretty overblown and somewhat silly conclusion. I don't want to spoil it, because this movie is worth checking out, but the ending goes 100% crazy, and Howard's motivations, his endgame, and his true history are mostly left unexplored, making all the build up kind of superfluous. I appreciated the overall message of the film, and for 75% of the runtime, I was invested, but as soon as I realized what the film had been building to, I was disappointed and perturbed. I even left the theater thinking that I outright didn't like this film, just because of the end.

After some thought though, this really isn't a bad movie, it just feels like a well directed, small thriller until the last 15-20 minutes when (what I assume was) the hands of studio forced Trachtenberg to make a silly Twilight Zone episode out of an already finished movie. Go ahead and give it a try, if only to support Trachtenberg, Winstead, and Goodman in their future endeavors, but don't epect anything mind blowing.

Score: 7

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