Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane

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As a fan of science fiction films, I often feel that originality within the movie industry can be at a disappointing low. Whether we are presented with remake after remake, or ideas that just seem so far fetched that they almost belong in the comedy category of our Netflix account, science fiction pictures can at times be tough to pass off as great films. In hearing about this movie, I had a very similar sentiment of sceptic, albeit intrigued at the premise of this show.

10 Cloverfield Lane is what producer J.J. Abrams (Super 8, Star Trek, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) would call the "blood relative" to its 2008 counterpart Cloverfield, and it is assumed that it takes place around the events of the first film from a completely different perspective. Instead of a group of friends struggling to survive the catastrophic events of a monster attacking the city as they move from one street to the next, we sit in with 3 people from different backgrounds of life, holed up in a countryside bunker as the alleged apocalypse of the world takes place just above their heads.

The film begins with a woman named Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) in her apartment who is clearly in duress about her life circumstances and unhappy with her current state. After a severe car accident, she awakens to find that she is handcuffed and trapped in a concrete room with what looks like a sealed blast door. We meet Howard (John Goodman), the man who claims to have brought her to what we discover is a bomb shelter built by him to, as he says, "keep her alive". In the bunker as well is a man named Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), who we learn knows Howard from before his time in the bunker. Michelle is incredulous to what she is told by Howard and Emmett that it is unsafe to go outside, however after an incident during one of her attempts to escape, she begins to believe that what she has heard is in fact true, and begins to accept her predicament. The movie continues with moments of humor, suspense, and surprises all the way through to the conclusion of the film.

10 Cloverfield Lane is the directorial debut of Dan Trachtenberg, however, this does not at all feel as though you are watching a first attempt at directing a major film. The way the story is told works remarkably well for what the situation is: 3 people holed in an underground bunker designed and built by a supposed crazy person. Trachtenburg does an excellent job in leading the movie in a direction that keeps you on the edge of your seat, wondering what you are about to see next. The film is very well written as a psychological thriller as well, so that you almost forget that what you are watching has a science fiction component to it. The filmography is exceptional. From scene to scene, the focus on the emotion in the shot is clear in the actors, and the movie is not heavily chopped from one shot to the next unnecessarily.

In terms of the acting, Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a tremendous lead in 10 Cloverfield Lane. The movie is centred around her story of being trapped not only physically in an underground bunker, but also psychologically and emotionally and she executes her role with a relatable believability. The symbolism surrounding the events that take place with her as the film unfolds are also an indication of what she has clearly been struggling with over the years. The irony of escaping her personal life and winding up trapped underground is an intentional and key component to the storytelling, and an excellent display of human resilience in dire situations. One of my favorite moments of the movie is in the final act where you see Michelle faced with a decision that will alter her life one way or the other, and she decides against past inclinations most likely at potential harm to herself. It's a fantastic portrayal of being free of her former persona and choosing sacrifice over self.

John Goodman successfully sheds the good guy image in 10 Cloverfield Lane as he takes on a more cynical and dark role in his portrayal of Howard. The character is complex and not as linear as you may expect going into the film, knowing that Goodman plays the would-be bad guy. However, from the introduction of the character throughout most of the movie, you find yourself questioning whether or not he actually is a villan at all. The tension that Goodman delivers to many scenes throughout 10 Cloverfield Lane is superb and keeps you guessing just when he may snap, or if he will at all. His past is wrought by tough life experience and loss, however we also develop a nervous yet tender affection for Howard. At times displaying a loveable and caring side, it is hard to cast him off as anything more than a paranoid conspiracy theorist. While the character is unconventional, what Howard represents is our willingness to survive at all cost at moments of life or death. Prepared for what he feels will always be our worst case scenario, "Howard's" methods are extreme, calculated, and at times threatening. It begs the question, if we were in that situation, would we feel that his reasoning for living the way he does is wrong? Would we judge his decision patterns as mental? You will have to watch 10 Cloverfield Lane to make your final call.

John Gallagher, Jr. is the perfect addition in his supporting role as Emmett in the film. An often humorous and fun release to an otherwise tense situation, his contribution to the story is organic and well-placed. Emmett is an essential part to Michelle being able to work through her inner struggles as well as determining where he may also need to be free from his regrets. His selfless attitude towards any given situation throughout 10 Cloverfield Lane makes the character a loved companion from the viewer's perspective. Gallagher, Jr.'s portrayal of Emmett is an instantly likeable one and he delivers with a surprisingly strong presence among the lead protagonists of the movie. A genuine delivery and well-rounded talent, John Gallagher, Jr. is impressive in this role.

10 Cloverfield Lane is a well-crafted piece of storytelling for both the science fiction genre and thrillers alike. What I particularly enjoyed about the film was the vantage point from which we are watching a potentially global catastrophe. The film relies on smart direction, acting prowess, and an engaging delivery as opposed to visual effects and on-screen spectacle. In an industry where CGI has often become the crutch to tell a story well, the film is one where honest and true filmmaking are revisited in order to captivate the audience. In all respects, 10 Cloverfield Lane does not disappoint and is an exciting movie to experience. Exploring themes of PTSD, regret, love, and survival, this latest production from Bad Robot is a tale relatable to the human experience in many ways.

Tags: 10 Cloverfield Lane, Cloverfield, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, John Gallagher, Jr., J.J. Abrams, Bad Robot

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Jay is a freelance media writer, reviewer and interviewer based in Calgary AB. He has worked with several media outlets to review current entertainment in the music and film industry.

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