a critiQal film review 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

Plot: After losing consciousness in a car accident, a woman (Winstead) awakes in an underground cellar with a man (Goodman) who tells her the outside world has been devastated by an attack.

496 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 28s)

We’d been wanting to check out this follow-up to Cloverfield (2008) for awhile, but hadn’t gotten around to it. Recently, however, we saw it pop up on Amazon Prime, so decided to give it a chance. Would 10 Cloverfield Lane be worth our time, or was this just trying to cash in on the success of Cloverfield (2008)?

Mary Elizabeth Winstead is the first character viewers are introduced to in 10 Cloverfield Lane. Right from the start, she has to use her acting skills to connect with the viewer, as she doesn’t speak at all in the introductory sequence. It’s an interesting start for an actress in a film, and can help as much as hinder their performance. Thankfully, this silent treatment doesn’t last the whole film, and she gets to pull in the viewer more as the film progresses.

John Goodman is perfectly cast as the creepy odd guy. While he’s normally cast as a funnyman, he turns in an impressive performance playing out of his normal comfort zone in this film. His performance is the standout of 10 Cloverfield Lane, and definitely makes the film worth sticking around for.

The plot takes the world-ending cataclysm showcased in Cloverfield (2008) and reduces it’s impact to just a couple of people. Trapped in a survivalist’s bunker, the heroine must figure out who and what to trust. Is there really an apocalyptic attack that has wiped out the rest of the country? Or does the creepy older guy have other motives? And what of the third player in the bunker – what’s his story? With the bunker being the central location of the story, there is already an air of claustrophobia hanging around the edges of the film – a feeling that only worsens as tension grows and doubts form. It’s a solid setting (and premise) for a thriller, and director Trachtenberg does a good job of making the most of it.

Sure, it’s a movie that feels a bit too dirty – kind of like you need to take a shower after watching it. Combine that with the solid acting for most of the film, mixed with the palpable feelings of tension and ever-increasing claustrophobia, this film looks to be on a sure track to a solid thriller.

And then they tack on an ending that’s just plain bad – and most of the fun escapes from the film like air hissing through a hole in a balloon. The tension evaporates, the fun disappears, and the film turns almost into a joke of itself. Is this really the best they could come up with? Sadly, 10 Cloverfield Lane – like many films before it – just botches up so much on the finale, it kind of ruins everything that came before. Sure, it’s not as bad, as, say, the ending of Contact, but this ending definitely will leave the viewer feeling incredibly disappointed anyway.

If you skip the last 10 minutes or so, you’ll have a much better experience watching 10 Cloverfield Lane.

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