10 CLOVERFIELD LANE
By Gary "20 Thyme Meadow Street" Murray
Starring John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr.
Written by Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken and Damien Chazelle
Directed by Dan Trachenberg
Running time 115 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating FULL PRICE
The production company Bad Robot is basically a television icon that has been branching into films lately. They were responsible for the re-boot of Star Trek, Mission Impossible, Super 8 and the newest episode of Star Wars. If one is looking for sci-fi and thrill a minute action flicks, they are the go-to guys. But they started with Joy Ride and Cloverfield. As a tangent to that last film comes 10 Cloverfield Lane.
The film starts with Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) a young woman who is packing a suitcase and leaving her engagement ring on the counter. She is exiting her beau and ignoring his calls. Just as she turns the phone off, a mysterious auto smashes into her car. It rolls over and over.
When she wakes up, she is chained to a pipe on the floor and intravenous fluid is being pumped into her arm. A man comes in, drops off some food then leaves. She is sure that she is being held captive and there is something definitely wrong with her captor. Michelle plans her escape but fails to take down the man. He tells her that she can’t leave.
Eventually, she finds out that the man is Howard (John Goodman) and that they are inside his underground shelter. He also tells her that something has happened on the surface and that no one survived. They are basically the only ones who are not contaminated. Then, she meets Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) the young man who helped build the shelter.
When Emmett saw the bolt of something, he headed toward the shelter and forced his way inside. The three of them make a surrogate family but no one truly trusts the others.
The more Michelle lives under the ground, the more questions she has about what happened up there. The more she discovers about their plight, the more she questions everything. She is not sure that Howard is not lying for some nefarious means. He makes references to another woman, his daughter.
To give any more of the plot of 10 Cloverfield Lane would spoil the joy of experiencing all the thrills and spills. Let’s just put it this way, nothing and no one is exactly what one would expect. The screenplay twists and turns and twists yet again until it reaches its conclusion. It never lets up until the ending credits
With only three principal characters and a very limited set, one would expect the film to be stretching to make it interesting. Actually, the confined space and limited characters give the experience of being closed in. Like Night of the Living Dead, Buried and 127 Hours, the lack of cast and lack of open spaces give the film part of its feel. It would never achieve the desired effect any other way.
Director Dan Trachenberg has basically been working behind the scenes over the last few years. This is his first big time directing gig and he doesn’t let up for a moment in keeping a taunt thread. Not a moment is wasted by the young filmmaker in camera angle or cast motivation. The audience feels as if he was channeling the ghost of Alfred Hitchcock in making this master work. Remember, Hitchcock made films for the masses and was only later beloved by film historians.
John Goodman is super creepy with the role of Howard. Is he a crazed survivalist or the last sane man on the planet? As the screenplay unfolds, the more answers he gives his two bunkmates, the more questions it eventually brings up. He can turn on a dime and rages at different moments.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead becomes a parallel to ‘the good girl’ in the slasher flicks from the 1980s. She is the person we relate to and we personify with her. As she struggles with her situation, we struggle right along with her. We jump out of our collective seats as she struggles with her captive situation.
As hard as it is to believe, 10 Cloverfield Lane is one of my favorite flicks of this young year. I doubt it will stay in the Top Ten but, who knows, stranger things have happened. It has all the thrills that action junkies demand and some more esoteric flairs that those who crave something more than a pure popcorn chewing waste of time. Don’t miss this little gem.