10 Cloverfield Lane has very little to do with the 2008 Cloverfield flick, and it’s all the better for it. What it does do is thrust you into a gripping tale in another dimension where monsters are juxtaposed, and survival is life. Dan Trachtenberg directs his first feature film, backed by J.J. Abrams, and it’s quite a debut. John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and John Gallagher Jr. star in this claustrophobic, psychological thriller that brings quite a mix to the table.
This film didn’t have the genius marketing campaign of Cloverfield, but tacking on that name makes one curious enough to make the choice to dive in. Director Trachtenberg makes that choice absolutely worth it. There are no wasted scenes in this film, as it’s filled with white-knuckle moments that feed on your everyday fears, as well as your fear of the unknown. The quick pace, along with the taut score, and choice to show just enough horrific sights, really place you in a state of frenzy throughout. Trachtenberg uses subtle shots to paint a picture of the characters’ intentions, which cranks up the anxiety. Body language holds the truth, as words can’t be trusted. Now, the connection to 2008’s Cloverfield may make this a weaker film because you may go in expecting certain things, but keep in mind they’re connected in tone and atmosphere only, somewhat like the Cornetto Trilogy.
The screenplay is creative and eerie, and is a bit of a genre-bender. It’s sinks into how heinous a human being can become on Earth, as well as how insignificant the universe may see us. Each character is fleshed out enough that you’re invested in what happens to them. They’re not characters we haven’t run into before, but the performances that bring them to life are fantastic.
John Goodman gives an incredible performance that walks the line of hardcore survivalist and deviant control freak . Goodman’s performance as Howard is thoroughly chilling, and is the root of all the tension in the film; every move he makes shifts the balance of the mood in each scene. Michelle, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, naturally evolves throughout the film with each new circumstance she’s thrown into. Interestingly enough, if viewed from a particular perspective, Michelle’s path is somewhat similar to a hero’s origin story. John Gallagher Jr. as Emmett embodies the loser with humor very well, bringing some lighter moments to the dark story. All three performances compliment each other to elevate the film.
10 Cloverfield Lane is wound tightly by layered storytelling and gripping performances all around . Although it uses the “Cloverfield” name, it only does so quite loosely, as it mostly stands alone, towering the 2008 monster movie. This film is a throwback to the creativity and atmosphere that made Twilight Zone timeless. Monsters truly do come in many forms and show up in many places, but they also push people to become heroes by necessity.