10 Cloverfield Lane movie full length review - Defining a Cloverfield franchise
When the trailer dropped for 10 Cloverfield Lane, it caught everyone by surprise. Nobody really knew if there were plans for a sequel to the 2008 film 'Cloverfield', let alone if they even began shooting for it.
But then, out of the blue, we get this awesome trailer and everyone knew, this was going to be something special. And by god, it was.
Michelle, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, is a young woman who's on the run. Not from the authorities but from her troubled life. She gets into an accident and wakes up, chained to a wall in what turns out to be an underground bunker. She is being held there by Howard, portrayed by John Goodman. Howard claims there has been an attack, chemical or otherwise, and that he saved her from certain death. Michelle doesn't know what to believe and can only guess what Howard's real intentions are. She isn't Howard's only guest though. Emmet, brought to live by John Gallagher Jr., is the third wheel and it's this trio you'll be spending the entire film watching. The story is build up perfectly. It balances true suspense with genuine and upbeat moments. As a viewer, you're constantly put on a wrong track or left guessing because the twists and turns the story takes are masterfully executed. This only works because the film takes its time to build them up and because you're experiencing the story and this universe through Michelle's eyes only. You as a viewer only know and see what Michelle knows and sees which to me personally ads more suspense than knowing something the protagonist doesn't.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead really nailed this performance. She was likable, clever and strong. You really rooted for her because she could think on her feet and made really smart choices. You knew from fairly early on that if she would figure out what was going on or how to escape if need be, she only had her wits and strength to thank. Her own personal story really resonated with me and it made her a great all-round character. John Gallagher Jr. is a name I'll remember from now on. I wasn't familiar with his work but I'm impressed with his performance. He was more than a comical note in this film and had his own important contribution to the story. You really do care about him and his story. Finally, I have to talk about the absolute highlight of this film. John Goodman's performance is truly Oscar worthy. He just steals every scene he's in and knocks it out of his bunker and out of the park. He was terrifying, not just because of his size but because of his presence. He is a force to be reckoned with and the film ads so much to his character by doing all these subtle things: hearing his footsteps approach from a far, hearing his constant heavy breathing and taking time to show all the little nuances he put in his performance.
Visually this film is absolutely brilliant. As said, the entire film is experienced through Michelle's perspective and the cinematography is dedicated to this perspective. The camera is always close to Michelle, looking over her shoulder or showing her in a close-up shot. The camera will only pull back when the tension subsides for a while, which is a very effective way to create this contrast. During the finale of the film, the camera pulls back in and never lets go of Michelle. The tension in this scene is therefor all the more gruesome.
The score for 10 Cloverfield Lane is great. It's not outstanding or Oscar worthy but it does help create tension. When competing with an outstanding script and an even better cast, it's hard for a score to compete and really stand out, which is a compliment for both the cast and the writers, more than it is a critique on the score itself.
Being called 10 Cloverfield Lane, is probably one of the biggest problems of this film. Many viewers and fans, myself included, were expecting a sequel or prequel to 'Cloverfield'. This is not the case. One could even argue that these films aren't taking place in the same universe. Going into this film I knew I wouldn't get a sequel because I did some research. Nevertheless, I kept waiting for the Cloverfield monster to turn up but it never did. The climax for this film will definitely satisfy most viewers and even fans but I can't deny that die-hard fans will be disappointed. But I believe I figured out what J.J. Abrams and his entourage were going for...
DEFINING A FRANCHISE
I believe that with this film, a franchise has been defined. Many people wanted it to be monster- or found footage franchise , but it turned out differently. From now on, an entry in the Cloverfield franchise will be a science fiction film, grounded in the real world and at the center of these films will be a disaster that takes place. In the first one we got a huge monster, rampaging through New York, in the second a possible chemical or nuclear attack that devastated the United States. Thinking about this, one can only wonder what the third film will be... However, nothing is certain at this point and seeing how Abrams fooled our expectations with 10 Cloverfield Lane, I wouldn't bet my head on me being right.
10 Cloverfield Lane is a masterfully executed, psychological thriller with stellar performances and great characters. It thrives on its tension and great writing and it keeps you guessing through the whole thing. It's a great film and even better one if you check your expectations at the door.