What kind of black magic did J.J. Abrams have to perform to bring Alfred Hitchcock back from the dead to make a sequel to the beloved monster movie, Cloverfield? Of course that’s not the case, but 10 Cloverfield Lane has all of the suspense and tension found in Hitchcock’s best films. This movie, however, is directed by Dan Trachtenberg, who has made a few short films but this is his feature film debut. While 10 Cloverfield Lane can be considered a sequel to Cloverfield in some ways, it more so builds upon a universe shrouded in mystery. I really wasn’t expecting much when this was first announced, but this was a great movie.
After being in a major accident, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wakes up in a bare room that she’s never seen before. It turns out that she was pulled from the wreckage by a farmer named Howard (John Goodman), who brought her into his doomsday bunker after he claims that the United States has been the victim of a mysterious and catastrophic attack. Michelle isn’t the only one down there with Howard, however. Soon she meets Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.), a local guy who helped Howard build the bunker and claims to have seen the attack first hand. As time in the bunker passes and the trio get to know each other a little better, more distrust of Howard begins to build as strange evidence starts piling up that begs the question of wether he’s completely sane or not and wether it’s worth risking contamination to escape the bunker.
Take everything you know about the style and mood of the first Cloverfield and just toss it out the window. You don’t need it for 10 Cloverfield Lane. This is a completely different movie than its predecessor. In fact, this movie can be viewed as a stand alone film because the connections are so hidden, it’s easy to miss what they are. More on that later, though. What I learned about Trachtenberg from this movie is that he works really well with space. Most of this movie just takes place in Howard’s bunker, which really isn’t all that big, but there’s so much tension and suspense present that you could fill 5 bunkers. What’s also great about the suspense is that it isn’t drawn out too long or too slowly. This movie is actually very quick paced, so I felt like I was really being thrown into an intense situation before I was even prepared for it. Not only that but I had this overwhelming desire to figure out everything and know what happens. That kind of viewer engagement is a sign of a really great m
One of the most entertaining things about this movie is the interaction between the three characters in the bunker. It’s really the driving force behind the entire movie, because without the interactions written exactly right (like they were) and performed with the utmost believability (which the were) this movie wouldn’t be nearly as effective. The screenplay by Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken, and Damien Chazelle (who also wrote and directed Whiplash) is fantastic and full of memorable dialogue and suspense sequences. I also have to give the acting a lot of praise. John Goodman, in particular, steals the show and is one of the most memorable antagonists I’ve seen in recent movies. Mary Elizabeth Winstead also gives a strong performance as a protagonist determined not to give in. The only person who is a little underwhelming is John Gallagher, Jr., which has more to do with the attention given to his character in the screenplay rather than his performance in the movie.
What was great about the first Cloverfield was the mystery behind it. Sure, it’s essentially a monster movie, but the entire time it’s on you feel like you aren’t getting the whole story. This is because it doesn’t treat the audience like a child. There are clues all over Cloverfield as to what’s really going on, and there’s the same kind of clues in 10 Cloverfield Lane that are sometimes hidden in plain sight for you to find. These both give the story some more mystery and answers, but also serves to tie this movie in to the original. It’s just really nice when a movie doesn’t condescend to an audience and treat us like we can’t figure anything out for ourselves.
At first, I had very low expectations for 10 Cloverfield Lane and when I saw the praise that it was getting I was relieved. I really can’t stress it enough that this movie is nothing like the original in terms of its style, but the mood and feeling of mystery and paranoia still hold strong. J.J. Abrams really knows how to market a movie, but this wasn’t just clever marketing that makes this movie a success. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a success because it is smart, suspenseful, and superbly crafted.