10 Cloverfield Lane

The first SOLID thriller of the year!


10 Cloverfield Lane

  • The first SOLID thriller of the year!

10 Cloverfield Lane

  • The first SOLID thriller of the year!


Rated

PG-13

Starring

Mary Elizabeth Winstead
John Gallagher Jr.
John Goodman

Written by

Josh Campbell
Matthew Stuecken
Damien Chazelle

Directed by

Dan Trachtenberg



What to Expect

I made the deliberate decision to step into 10 Cloverfield Lane without watching the 2007 found-footage horror film Cloverfield, directed by Matt Reeves (who’s since, of course, moved on to bigger projects like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes). It may not have been the smartest decision to make when you consider a critic’s greatest weapon—homework. That being said, I found I would have the advantage of uninfluenced perspective. Furthermore, with the film’s only connection to its spiritual predecessor being its setup in the same universe (J. J. Abrams, the producer of the movie, awarded the film with a rather unusual phrase: “blood relative”), it would, of course, be interesting to know if the movie would hold up as well as an individual product for those who may not have seen the first chapter in its entirety; myself included.

The risk paid off. But more on that later.

With as many as three writers—Josh Campbell (4 Minute Mile) and Matt Stuecken, with rewrites by Whiplash writer-director Damien Chazelle—involved in the film, there can be understandable skepticism involved. Additionally, this is a movie that may, or may not, have been written solely for the Cloverfield universe. Initially titled The Cellar, Campbell-Stuecken’s spec script was picked up by Paramount and Abrams’ Bad Robot and developed with the kind of curiosity-driven secrecy that was made to kill cats. By what point the idea translated into a perfect fit for the franchise, one would never know. But then, it’s also quite common to have “spiritual successors” riding on the financial success of a franchise, just to keep the money rolling in. And I’ve turned into a bit of a jaded human; a cynic when it comes to these things.

There was something about how sparingly the makers were revealing about the film, though. The buildup; the excitement that I felt for the film felt incredibly organic. I can’t point at what was drawing me to it, but then again, when you feel for a movie this deeply before its release, does anything matter, except that you just have to go and see it?

And so there I was, waiting for the lights in the cinema to dim, almost entirely unaware of what would wash over me.

What’s it About?

After a life-threatening accident, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead; Smashed) wakes up in a cellar of an underground bunker owned by Howard (John Goodman; Argo), who claims he “saved” her. Living with her in the basement is Emmett—a man with a broken arm. As the days pass, the lines between trust and paranoia begin to blur, but is it safer for her outside than it is inside?

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Where am I?

Where am I?

It’s an ordinary day for the rest of the humans in the vicinity Michelle lives in. Thus far in the story, we’re introduced to the unrest in her mind. Thus, along with the fine character establishment, begins the low-key buildup of tension. Known for his involvement in horror films, Bear McCreary creates a failsafe soundtrack that unconsciously informs—and prepares—viewers of what’s about to come. It needs to be known—and this is crucial—that in spite of the foreshadowing, Michelle’s emotional core is still shown to one and all, and we’re able to connect with her. The scene might superficially address her leaving the house for good. With the help of the deliberately jerky camerawork and sound design, however, viewers are introduced to an image system that balances between addressing the protagonist’s shaky mind and an impending doom, with an almost surgical precision.

Director Dan Trachtenberg, who makes his feature-length film debut, may not be all that new at translating tension from paper to (moving) picture. Those who’ve watched his short film of the eponymous videogame Portal: No Escape will be quite familiar with his impressive handling of claustrophobia and containment. 10 Cloverfield Lane is no different. As Michelle wakes up in a cellar, she’s a keen, if petrified, observer, trying to make sense of things. At the very least, the female protagonist in his short film observes traits that intersect with the movie in question. Nobody’s complaining, though, because Michelle is an incredibly well-written character who has a clearly defined arc throughout the film’s runtime.

In a silent nod to Steven Spielberg’s 1971 direct-to-video thriller film Duel, there’s a scene set at a gas station, in which a yet-unidentified bigger vehicle menacingly parks right opposite Michelle’s modest car. The very scene comes full-circle when Howard muses on the ignorance of humans to any future onslaught of danger that concerns their safety and life as Michelle is thrown in for a loop. Trachtenberg seems to know exactly what he’s up to; his focus is deliriously impressive. The writers may have already known, though, for this film is built on such a strong foundation that despite its sparing use of location or people, there’s always something around the corner generating the curiosity of its viewers. There’s always something stopping their hearts from beating for a few whole seconds; pausing their regular cycle of breathing.

I accept your apology

I accept your apology

Coming back to image systems for a bit—they’re quite evident. Be it the living or non-living objects, many plot devices are, in fact, interesting symbols of trust issues, abuse, and (by its third act) post-traumatic stress. Despite it, the protagonist is not, for a single frame, given the garb of a victim. She’s not the scream queen Elizabeth may have played in the past. She’s a survivor and intends to stay that way through and through. The hapless victim—of circumstance, and of his fears—interestingly, is Emmett. John Goodman’s Howard, however, one of the most powerfully written roles. Viewers have absolutely no idea what’s going on in that head of his. Is he subjecting his long-term guests to the inevitable Stockholm Syndrome? Is the world being torn apart? Are his intentions honest, or less than sanitary? The questions keep popping up, for in every scene you’re as subject to his volatility as Emmett and Michelle.

What we all know is that this is a contained thriller. But what we can appreciate is that despite the sparing nature of its narrative and production design, the makers have fortunately left no stone unturned in making the film look terrific—and yes, we mean all that money. Jeff Cutter’s impressive cinematography and McCreary’s score help with the consistency of the film’s much-required atmosphere. And the editing is FANTASTIC. Every edit decision made; every single cut between two consecutive shots is precise and non-indulgent, and editor Stefan Grube instead chose to direct all his focus toward shaping the story prominently keeping emotion and rhythm in mind. Oh, and that CGI. That commendable CGI.

If there’s any nit one would have to pick, it’s whether a paramount (pun intended) character’s unjustified real motives need to exist, when it comes to the superficial running of the story. To this, I’d naturally suggest some reflection and retrospect. Why, you ask? Because this tightly wound-up, twisty, contained thriller revels in all of its expressionist symbolism. And it doesn’t harm that despite the light-feathered touch of its references to its franchise, this is a film that can be savored individually, with the background of the Cloverfield having the potential to act as a possibly perfect companion piece.

To Perform or Not to Perform

Stockholm Syndrome or Serious Shit?

Stockholm Syndrome or Serious Shit?

Mary Elizabeth Winstead is excellent. She is just an utterly brilliant performer who doesn’t just have range; she’s got the confidence to slip into a role and convince us of the character’s presence more than the actor’s. John Goodman is a force of nature. Playing a character with perhaps the most difficult set of complications to balance, his is a role that could easily have been caricatured. Goodman, thankfully, gives his character the required three-dimensional outlook it needs. John Gallagher Jr. is wonderful. He provides the requisite dark humor to balance off the soul-crushing seriousness. Sure, individually, they’re brilliant. But what makes their characters stand out is just how well they’re able to play off each others’ strengths. The chemistry and conversation matter. It’s what makes all the exposition in the movie warranted. It’s what gives the backstories they talk of the much required organic flow.

Worth it?

10 Cloverfield Lane is an excellent thriller. Not only does it help spiritually expand upon the franchise’s overall universe, but this is also a movie quite definitely made by filmmakers who love film, and with a solid understanding of genre and storytelling. Additionally, this works both for people who’ve watched (and dearly loved) Cloverfield, and those who haven’t. And with a cast and setup as solid as this, there’s almost no chance you’d want to give this a miss.

Yes, I’ll go out on a limb and state that this is one of the best films I’ve seen so far this year. Highly recommended, and a solid must-watch.

Consensus: 4.5 Stars
Extraordinary!
About the Author

Ankit Ojha

Facebook

Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

Watch the trailer

We’re viral

Like UsFollow Us


Rated

PG-13

Starring

Mary Elizabeth Winstead
John Gallagher Jr.
John Goodman

Written by

Josh Campbell
Matthew Stuecken
Damien Chazelle

Directed by

Dan Trachtenberg



What to Expect

I made the deliberate decision to step into 10 Cloverfield Lane without watching the 2007 found-footage horror film Cloverfield, directed by Matt Reeves (who’s since, of course, moved on to bigger projects like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes). It may not have been the smartest decision to make when you consider a critic’s greatest weapon—homework. That being said, I found I would have the advantage of uninfluenced perspective. Furthermore, with the film’s only connection to its spiritual predecessor being its setup in the same universe (J. J. Abrams, the producer of the movie, awarded the film with a rather unusual phrase: “blood relative”), it would, of course, be interesting to know if the movie would hold up as well as an individual product for those who may not have seen the first chapter in its entirety; myself included.

The risk paid off. But more on that later.

With as many as three writers—Josh Campbell (4 Minute Mile) and Matt Stuecken, with rewrites by Whiplash writer-director Damien Chazelle—involved in the film, there can be understandable skepticism involved. Additionally, this is a movie that may, or may not, have been written solely for the Cloverfield universe. Initially titled The Cellar, Campbell-Stuecken’s spec script was picked up by Paramount and Abrams’ Bad Robot and developed with the kind of curiosity-driven secrecy that was made to kill cats. By what point the idea translated into a perfect fit for the franchise, one would never know. But then, it’s also quite common to have “spiritual successors” riding on the financial success of a franchise, just to keep the money rolling in. And I’ve turned into a bit of a jaded human; a cynic when it comes to these things.

There was something about how sparingly the makers were revealing about the film, though. The buildup; the excitement that I felt for the film felt incredibly organic. I can’t point at what was drawing me to it, but then again, when you feel for a movie this deeply before its release, does anything matter, except that you just have to go and see it?

And so there I was, waiting for the lights in the cinema to dim, almost entirely unaware of what would wash over me.

What’s it About?

After a life-threatening accident, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead; Smashed) wakes up in a cellar of an underground bunker owned by Howard (John Goodman; Argo), who claims he “saved” her. Living with her in the basement is Emmett—a man with a broken arm. As the days pass, the lines between trust and paranoia begin to blur, but is it safer for her outside than it is inside?

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Where am I?

Where am I?

It’s an ordinary day for the rest of the humans in the vicinity Michelle lives in. Thus far in the story, we’re introduced to the unrest in her mind. Thus, along with the fine character establishment, begins the low-key buildup of tension. Known for his involvement in horror films, Bear McCreary creates a failsafe soundtrack that unconsciously informs—and prepares—viewers of what’s about to come. It needs to be known—and this is crucial—that in spite of the foreshadowing, Michelle’s emotional core is still shown to one and all, and we’re able to connect with her. The scene might superficially address her leaving the house for good. With the help of the deliberately jerky camerawork and sound design, however, viewers are introduced to an image system that balances between addressing the protagonist’s shaky mind and an impending doom, with an almost surgical precision.

Director Dan Trachtenberg, who makes his feature-length film debut, may not be all that new at translating tension from paper to (moving) picture. Those who’ve watched his short film of the eponymous videogame Portal: No Escape will be quite familiar with his impressive handling of claustrophobia and containment. 10 Cloverfield Lane is no different. As Michelle wakes up in a cellar, she’s a keen, if petrified, observer, trying to make sense of things. At the very least, the female protagonist in his short film observes traits that intersect with the movie in question. Nobody’s complaining, though, because Michelle is an incredibly well-written character who has a clearly defined arc throughout the film’s runtime.

In a silent nod to Steven Spielberg’s 1971 direct-to-video thriller film Duel, there’s a scene set at a gas station, in which a yet-unidentified bigger vehicle menacingly parks right opposite Michelle’s modest car. The very scene comes full-circle when Howard muses on the ignorance of humans to any future onslaught of danger that concerns their safety and life as Michelle is thrown in for a loop. Trachtenberg seems to know exactly what he’s up to; his focus is deliriously impressive. The writers may have already known, though, for this film is built on such a strong foundation that despite its sparing use of location or people, there’s always something around the corner generating the curiosity of its viewers. There’s always something stopping their hearts from beating for a few whole seconds; pausing their regular cycle of breathing.

I accept your apology

I accept your apology

Coming back to image systems for a bit—they’re quite evident. Be it the living or non-living objects, many plot devices are, in fact, interesting symbols of trust issues, abuse, and (by its third act) post-traumatic stress. Despite it, the protagonist is not, for a single frame, given the garb of a victim. She’s not the scream queen Elizabeth may have played in the past. She’s a survivor and intends to stay that way through and through. The hapless victim—of circumstance, and of his fears—interestingly, is Emmett. John Goodman’s Howard, however, one of the most powerfully written roles. Viewers have absolutely no idea what’s going on in that head of his. Is he subjecting his long-term guests to the inevitable Stockholm Syndrome? Is the world being torn apart? Are his intentions honest, or less than sanitary? The questions keep popping up, for in every scene you’re as subject to his volatility as Emmett and Michelle.

What we all know is that this is a contained thriller. But what we can appreciate is that despite the sparing nature of its narrative and production design, the makers have fortunately left no stone unturned in making the film look terrific—and yes, we mean all that money. Jeff Cutter’s impressive cinematography and McCreary’s score help with the consistency of the film’s much-required atmosphere. And the editing is FANTASTIC. Every edit decision made; every single cut between two consecutive shots is precise and non-indulgent, and editor Stefan Grube instead chose to direct all his focus toward shaping the story prominently keeping emotion and rhythm in mind. Oh, and that CGI. That commendable CGI.

If there’s any nit one would have to pick, it’s whether a paramount (pun intended) character’s unjustified real motives need to exist, when it comes to the superficial running of the story. To this, I’d naturally suggest some reflection and retrospect. Why, you ask? Because this tightly wound-up, twisty, contained thriller revels in all of its expressionist symbolism. And it doesn’t harm that despite the light-feathered touch of its references to its franchise, this is a film that can be savored individually, with the background of the Cloverfield having the potential to act as a possibly perfect companion piece.

To Perform or Not to Perform

Stockholm Syndrome or Serious Shit?

Stockholm Syndrome or Serious Shit?

Mary Elizabeth Winstead is excellent. She is just an utterly brilliant performer who doesn’t just have range; she’s got the confidence to slip into a role and convince us of the character’s presence more than the actor’s. John Goodman is a force of nature. Playing a character with perhaps the most difficult set of complications to balance, his is a role that could easily have been caricatured. Goodman, thankfully, gives his character the required three-dimensional outlook it needs. John Gallagher Jr. is wonderful. He provides the requisite dark humor to balance off the soul-crushing seriousness. Sure, individually, they’re brilliant. But what makes their characters stand out is just how well they’re able to play off each others’ strengths. The chemistry and conversation matter. It’s what makes all the exposition in the movie warranted. It’s what gives the backstories they talk of the much required organic flow.

Worth it?

10 Cloverfield Lane is an excellent thriller. Not only does it help spiritually expand upon the franchise’s overall universe, but this is also a movie quite definitely made by filmmakers who love film, and with a solid understanding of genre and storytelling. Additionally, this works both for people who’ve watched (and dearly loved) Cloverfield, and those who haven’t. And with a cast and setup as solid as this, there’s almost no chance you’d want to give this a miss.

Yes, I’ll go out on a limb and state that this is one of the best films I’ve seen so far this year. Highly recommended, and a solid must-watch.

Consensus: 4.5 Stars
Extraordinary!
About the Author

Ankit Ojha

Facebook

Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

Watch the trailer

We’re viral

Like UsFollow Us

Cast Mary Elizabeth Winstead
John Goodman
John Gallagher Jr.
Director Dan Trachtenberg
Consensus: 4.5 Stars
Extraordinary!

What to Expect

Dangerous secrets buried deep inside

Dangerous secrets buried deep inside

I made the deliberate decision to step into 10 Cloverfield Lane without watching the 2007 found-footage horror film Cloverfield, directed by Matt Reeves (who’s since, of course, moved on to bigger projects like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes). It may not have been the smartest decision to make when you consider a critic’s greatest weapon—homework. That being said, I found I would have the advantage of uninfluenced perspective. Furthermore, with the film’s only connection to its spiritual predecessor being its setup in the same universe (J. J. Abrams, the producer of the movie, awarded the film with a rather unusual phrase: “blood relative”), it would, of course, be interesting to know if the movie would hold up as well as an individual product for those who may not have seen the first chapter in its entirety; myself included.

The risk paid off. But more on that later.

With as many as three writers—Josh Campbell (4 Minute Mile) and Matt Stuecken, with rewrites by Whiplash writer-director Damien Chazelle—involved in the film, there can be understandable skepticism involved. Additionally, this is a movie that may, or may not, have been written solely for the Cloverfield universe. Initially titled The Cellar, Campbell-Stuecken’s spec script was picked up by Paramount and Abrams’ Bad Robot and developed with the kind of curiosity-driven secrecy that was made to kill cats. By what point the idea translated into a perfect fit for the franchise, one would never know. But then, it’s also quite common to have “spiritual successors” riding on the financial success of a franchise, just to keep the money rolling in. And I’ve turned into a bit of a jaded human; a cynic when it comes to these things.

There was something about how sparingly the makers were revealing about the film, though. The buildup; the excitement that I felt for the film felt incredibly organic. I can’t point at what was drawing me to it, but then again, when you feel for a movie this deeply before its release, does anything matter, except that you just have to go and see it?

And so there I was, waiting for the lights in the cinema to dim, almost entirely unaware of what would wash over me.

What’s it About?

After a life-threatening accident, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead; Smashed) wakes up in a cellar of an underground bunker owned by Howard (John Goodman; Argo), who claims he “saved” her. Living with her in the basement is Emmett—a man with a broken arm. As the days pass, the lines between trust and paranoia begin to blur, but is it safer for her outside than it is inside?

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Where am I?

Where am I?

It’s an ordinary day for the rest of the humans in the vicinity Michelle lives in. Thus far in the story, we’re introduced to the unrest in her mind. Thus, along with the fine character establishment, begins the low-key buildup of tension. Known for his involvement in horror films, Bear McCreary creates a failsafe soundtrack that unconsciously informs—and prepares—viewers of what’s about to come. It needs to be known—and this is crucial—that in spite of the foreshadowing, Michelle’s emotional core is still shown to one and all, and we’re able to connect with her. The scene might superficially address her leaving the house for good. With the help of the deliberately jerky camerawork and sound design, however, viewers are introduced to an image system that balances between addressing the protagonist’s shaky mind and an impending doom, with an almost surgical precision.

Director Dan Trachtenberg, who makes his feature-length film debut, may not be all that new at translating tension from paper to (moving) picture. Those who’ve watched his short film of the eponymous videogame Portal: No Escape will be quite familiar with his impressive handling of claustrophobia and containment. 10 Cloverfield Lane is no different. As Michelle wakes up in a cellar, she’s a keen, if petrified, observer, trying to make sense of things. At the very least, the female protagonist in his short film observes traits that intersect with the movie in question. Nobody’s complaining, though, because Michelle is an incredibly well-written character who has a clearly defined arc throughout the film’s runtime.

In a silent nod to Steven Spielberg’s 1971 direct-to-video thriller film Duel, there’s a scene set at a gas station, in which a yet-unidentified bigger vehicle menacingly parks right opposite Michelle’s modest car. The very scene comes full-circle when Howard muses on the ignorance of humans to any future onslaught of danger that concerns their safety and life as Michelle is thrown in for a loop. Trachtenberg seems to know exactly what he’s up to; his focus is deliriously impressive. The writers may have already known, though, for this film is built on such a strong foundation that despite its sparing use of location or people, there’s always something around the corner generating the curiosity of its viewers. There’s always something stopping their hearts from beating for a few whole seconds; pausing their regular cycle of breathing.

I accept your apology

I accept your apology

Coming back to image systems for a bit—they’re quite evident. Be it the living or non-living objects, many plot devices are, in fact, interesting symbols of trust issues, abuse, and (by its third act) post-traumatic stress. Despite it, the protagonist is not, for a single frame, given the garb of a victim. She’s not the scream queen Elizabeth may have played in the past. She’s a survivor and intends to stay that way through and through. The hapless victim—of circumstance, and of his fears—interestingly, is Emmett. John Goodman’s Howard, however, one of the most powerfully written roles. Viewers have absolutely no idea what’s going on in that head of his. Is he subjecting his long-term guests to the inevitable Stockholm Syndrome? Is the world being torn apart? Are his intentions honest, or less than sanitary? The questions keep popping up, for in every scene you’re as subject to his volatility as Emmett and Michelle.

What we all know is that this is a contained thriller. But what we can appreciate is that despite the sparing nature of its narrative and production design, the makers have fortunately left no stone unturned in making the film look terrific—and yes, we mean all that money. Jeff Cutter’s impressive cinematography and McCreary’s score help with the consistency of the film’s much-required atmosphere. And the editing is FANTASTIC. Every edit decision made; every single cut between two consecutive shots is precise and non-indulgent, and editor Stefan Grube instead chose to direct all his focus toward shaping the story prominently keeping emotion and rhythm in mind. Oh, and that CGI. That commendable CGI.

If there’s any nit one would have to pick, it’s whether a paramount (pun intended) character’s unjustified real motives need to exist, when it comes to the superficial running of the story. To this, I’d naturally suggest some reflection and retrospect. Why, you ask? Because this tightly wound-up, twisty, contained thriller revels in all of its expressionist symbolism. And it doesn’t harm that despite the light-feathered touch of its references to its franchise, this is a film that can be savored individually, with the background of the Cloverfield having the potential to act as a possibly perfect companion piece.

To Perform or Not to Perform

Stockholm Syndrome or Serious Shit?

Stockholm Syndrome or Serious Shit?

Mary Elizabeth Winstead is excellent. She is just an utterly brilliant performer who doesn’t just have range; she’s got the confidence to slip into a role and convince us of the character’s presence more than the actor’s. John Goodman is a force of nature. Playing a character with perhaps the most difficult set of complications to balance, his is a role that could easily have been caricatured. Goodman, thankfully, gives his character the required three-dimensional outlook it needs. John Gallagher Jr. is wonderful. He provides the requisite dark humor to balance off the soul-crushing seriousness. Sure, individually, they’re brilliant. But what makes their characters stand out is just how well they’re able to play off each others’ strengths. The chemistry and conversation matter. It’s what makes all the exposition in the movie warranted. It’s what gives the backstories they talk of the much required organic flow.

Worth it?

10 Cloverfield Lane is an excellent thriller. Not only does it help spiritually expand upon the franchise’s overall universe, but this is also a movie quite definitely made by filmmakers who love film, and with a solid understanding of genre and storytelling. Additionally, this works both for people who’ve watched (and dearly loved) Cloverfield, and those who haven’t. And with a cast and setup as solid as this, there’s almost no chance you’d want to give this a miss.

Yes, I’ll go out on a limb and state that this is one of the best films I’ve seen so far this year. Highly recommended, and a solid must-watch.

About the Author

Ankit Ojha

Facebook

Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

We’re viral

Like usFollow us
Cast Mary Elizabeth Winstead
John Goodman
John Gallagher Jr.
Director Dan Trachtenberg
Consensus: 4.5 Stars
Extraordinary!

What to Expect

I made the deliberate decision to step into 10 Cloverfield Lane without watching the 2007 found-footage horror film Cloverfield, directed by Matt Reeves (who’s since, of course, moved on to bigger projects like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes). It may not have been the smartest decision to make when you consider a critic’s greatest weapon—homework. That being said, I found I would have the advantage of uninfluenced perspective. Furthermore, with the film’s only connection to its spiritual predecessor being its setup in the same universe (J. J. Abrams, the producer of the movie, awarded the film with a rather unusual phrase: “blood relative”), it would, of course, be interesting to know if the movie would hold up as well as an individual product for those who may not have seen the first chapter in its entirety; myself included.

The risk paid off. But more on that later.

With as many as three writers—Josh Campbell (4 Minute Mile) and Matt Stuecken, with rewrites by Whiplash writer-director Damien Chazelle—involved in the film, there can be understandable skepticism involved. Additionally, this is a movie that may, or may not, have been written solely for the Cloverfield universe. Initially titled The Cellar, Campbell-Stuecken’s spec script was picked up by Paramount and Abrams’ Bad Robot and developed with the kind of curiosity-driven secrecy that was made to kill cats. By what point the idea translated into a perfect fit for the franchise, one would never know. But then, it’s also quite common to have “spiritual successors” riding on the financial success of a franchise, just to keep the money rolling in. And I’ve turned into a bit of a jaded human; a cynic when it comes to these things.

There was something about how sparingly the makers were revealing about the film, though. The buildup; the excitement that I felt for the film felt incredibly organic. I can’t point at what was drawing me to it, but then again, when you feel for a movie this deeply before its release, does anything matter, except that you just have to go and see it?

And so there I was, waiting for the lights in the cinema to dim, almost entirely unaware of what would wash over me.

What’s it About?

After a life-threatening accident, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead; Smashed) wakes up in a cellar of an underground bunker owned by Howard (John Goodman; Argo), who claims he “saved” her. Living with her in the basement is Emmett—a man with a broken arm. As the days pass, the lines between trust and paranoia begin to blur, but is it safer for her outside than it is inside?

Where am I?

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

It’s an ordinary day for the rest of the humans in the vicinity Michelle lives in. Thus far in the story, we’re introduced to the unrest in her mind. Thus, along with the fine character establishment, begins the low-key buildup of tension. Known for his involvement in horror films, Bear McCreary creates a failsafe soundtrack that unconsciously informs—and prepares—viewers of what’s about to come. It needs to be known—and this is crucial—that in spite of the foreshadowing, Michelle’s emotional core is still shown to one and all, and we’re able to connect with her. The scene might superficially address her leaving the house for good. With the help of the deliberately jerky camerawork and sound design, however, viewers are introduced to an image system that balances between addressing the protagonist’s shaky mind and an impending doom, with an almost surgical precision.

Director Dan Trachtenberg, who makes his feature-length film debut, may not be all that new at translating tension from paper to (moving) picture. Those who’ve watched his short film of the eponymous videogame Portal: No Escape will be quite familiar with his impressive handling of claustrophobia and containment. 10 Cloverfield Lane is no different. As Michelle wakes up in a cellar, she’s a keen, if petrified, observer, trying to make sense of things. At the very least, the female protagonist in his short film observes traits that intersect with the movie in question. Nobody’s complaining, though, because Michelle is an incredibly well-written character who has a clearly defined arc throughout the film’s runtime.

In a silent nod to Steven Spielberg’s 1971 direct-to-video thriller film Duel, there’s a scene set at a gas station, in which a yet-unidentified bigger vehicle menacingly parks right opposite Michelle’s modest car. The very scene comes full-circle when Howard muses on the ignorance of humans to any future onslaught of danger that concerns their safety and life as Michelle is thrown in for a loop. Trachtenberg seems to know exactly what he’s up to; his focus is deliriously impressive. The writers may have already known, though, for this film is built on such a strong foundation that despite its sparing use of location or people, there’s always something around the corner generating the curiosity of its viewers. There’s always something stopping their hearts from beating for a few whole seconds; pausing their regular cycle of breathing.

I accept your apology

Coming back to image systems for a bit—they’re quite evident. Be it the living or non-living objects, many plot devices are, in fact, interesting symbols of trust issues, abuse, and (by its third act) post-traumatic stress. Despite it, the protagonist is not, for a single frame, given the garb of a victim. She’s not the scream queen Elizabeth may have played in the past. She’s a survivor and intends to stay that way through and through. The hapless victim—of circumstance, and of his fears—interestingly, is Emmett. John Goodman’s Howard, however, one of the most powerfully written roles. Viewers have absolutely no idea what’s going on in that head of his. Is he subjecting his long-term guests to the inevitable Stockholm Syndrome? Is the world being torn apart? Are his intentions honest, or less than sanitary? The questions keep popping up, for in every scene you’re as subject to his volatility as Emmett and Michelle.

What we all know is that this is a contained thriller. But what we can appreciate is that despite the sparing nature of its narrative and production design, the makers have fortunately left no stone unturned in making the film look terrific—and yes, we mean all that money. Jeff Cutter’s impressive cinematography and McCreary’s score help with the consistency of the film’s much-required atmosphere. And the editing is FANTASTIC. Every edit decision made; every single cut between two consecutive shots is precise and non-indulgent, and editor Stefan Grube instead chose to direct all his focus toward shaping the story prominently keeping emotion and rhythm in mind. Oh, and that CGI. That commendable CGI.

If there’s any nit one would have to pick, it’s whether a paramount (pun intended) character’s unjustified real motives need to exist, when it comes to the superficial running of the story. To this, I’d naturally suggest some reflection and retrospect. Why, you ask? Because this tightly wound-up, twisty, contained thriller revels in all of its expressionist symbolism. And it doesn’t harm that despite the light-feathered touch of its references to its franchise, this is a film that can be savored individually, with the background of the Cloverfield having the potential to act as a possibly perfect companion piece.

Stockholm Syndrome or Serious Shit?

To Perform or Not to Perform

Mary Elizabeth Winstead is excellent. She is just an utterly brilliant performer who doesn’t just have range; she’s got the confidence to slip into a role and convince us of the character’s presence more than the actor’s. John Goodman is a force of nature. Playing a character with perhaps the most difficult set of complications to balance, his is a role that could easily have been caricatured. Goodman, thankfully, gives his character the required three-dimensional outlook it needs. John Gallagher Jr. is wonderful. He provides the requisite dark humor to balance off the soul-crushing seriousness. Sure, individually, they’re brilliant. But what makes their characters stand out is just how well they’re able to play off each others’ strengths. The chemistry and conversation matter. It’s what makes all the exposition in the movie warranted. It’s what gives the backstories they talk of the much required organic flow.

Worth it?

10 Cloverfield Lane is an excellent thriller. Not only does it help spiritually expand upon the franchise’s overall universe, but this is also a movie quite definitely made by filmmakers who love film, and with a solid understanding of genre and storytelling. Additionally, this works both for people who’ve watched (and dearly loved) Cloverfield, and those who haven’t. And with a cast and setup as solid as this, there’s almost no chance you’d want to give this a miss.

Yes, I’ll go out on a limb and state that this is one of the best films I’ve seen so far this year. Highly recommended, and a solid must-watch.

About the Author

Ankit Ojha

Facebook

Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

Share this Post