EIGHT years after the release of monster-movie Cloverfield, JJ Abrams produces a new story called 10 Cloverfield Lane, though not necessarily a direct sequel and more a mystery than a full-on monster flick, yet just as intriguing.
After a car accident, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wakes up to find herself shackled in an unknown room with a drip attached to her. An initial attempt to escape results in her being sedated and upon waking up again, discovers that her captor Howard (John Goodman) is keeping her there for reasons not as first thought. It turns out that she is not alone and is in a similar situation to Emmet (John Gallagher Jr).
Both are being kept there for their own safety in an underground home constructed by Howard who reveals that the outside air has become contaminated amidst an unknown assault and that they will have to remain inside for an unknown period of time.
Though the three gradually bond and engage in their lifestyles, an eventual discovery leads Michelle to suspect that things might not entirely be what they appear.
To get an insight into what the film is like, especially in regards to fans of Cloverfield, the film is not the film some might expect it to be, and it is unpredictability that helps make it succeed for the most part.
Making his debut feature film, Dan Trachtenberg brings a genuine intensity with its claustrophobic setting, most notably in one scene involving Michelle working to fix an air filter via an air vent, not helped by Howard’s statement that neither he nor Emmet can help her if she gets stuck.
It is in hindsight a mostly theatrical setting as for the vast majority of the film, only Michelle, Howard and Emmet are shown in the bunker. Not all of it spells out entertaining as several conversations between Michelle and the somewhat uninteresting Emmet show. The idea of having Howard and Emmet as two men involved in a generational gap does get to the point where a side is effectively picked between the two and whenever Emmet appears, one prefers Howard to be back onscreen.
At times, the film does feel clichéd, most obvious in a montage showing all three socializing with each other, stating the obvious that though there are initial hostilities, it will work out, at least for then.
Of course, the film in part succeeds thanks to sequences that involve the menacing performance of the always fun-to-watch Goodman.
Notable examples include a tense scene where Michelle, still not convinced he is telling the truth over his motives for keeping her there, attempts to find a way to steal his keys to plot an escape.
With her engaging in conversation with Emmet and feigning a mistake regarding salt and pepper, his suspicions result in a jump-out-of-your-seat exchange where he states his demand for gratitude over his hospitality.
A glass to Howard’s face later and Michelle gets the keys but upon finding a way out, her view from the inside as to what is going on the outside results in a morally-challenging scenario. A clearly contaminated woman begs her to let her in, but as Howard screams not to let her in for safety reasons, Michelle is forced to watch helplessly as the woman’s pleas for sanctuary intensify.
Winstead also does well as a smart and successful heroine who has to contend with the fact that she somehow managed to escape the potential carnage yet also retain her wits in the event of potential danger.
Moving from one intense sequence to another, there is an effect that does make this film a chilling view. But helping the film is the idea as to what it is that is on the outside. It might be true that Cloverfield is in the title but the film’s mystery element makes one wonder if we are even going to see events that might connect to the 2008 film.
In effect, the end result does play as a win-win scenario because it gives us something that grips and works, but what we think might dominate the third act could also work too. It is a clever way of twisting things in a screenplay that was co-written by Whiplash director Damian Chazelle, someone with experience of being involved in a film that has more than its fair share of unexpected moments. The final shot does give some illusion that the story is not finished and there may be more to come, but if so, it would be an absolute requirement that Winstead returns.
Though not consistent, 10 Cloverfield Lane benefits in general thanks to Winstead and Goodman putting on a show with a good deal of suspense and surprise that likes to play games with its audience.