Reviews and entertainment articles by Dave Simpson
After eight years of hearsay surrounding a sequel to Cloverfield, producer J.J. Abrams surprised the world in January by announcing that a “spiritual successor” was just two months away. Naturally, this caused the internet to explode with speculation. Among the main questions that arose were was it going to be a direct sequel and would it feature the creature from the first film? While I won’t comment on whether 10 Cloverfield Lane ties into its 2008 predecessor, I will say that director Dan Trachtenberg has delivered an incredibly enthralling thriller that succeeds in being both an accessible standalone story and an effective franchise follow-up.
The plot revolves around a woman named Michelle who finds herself trapped in a bunker following a car crash. With only an enigmatic older man named Howard and the affable Emmett to keep her company, she must unearth the truth of their assertion that the outside world has been contaminated by some sort of terrorist attack.
Anyone who’s seen the trailers will probably be dying to know what’s going on beyond the boundaries of the bunker. Rest assured that the thrilling third act doesn’t disappoint when the time comes to offer up answers. The action-packed climax provides a satisfying payoff to all of the mystery that precedes it.
Although where the story really excels is not above the bunker, but within its walls. There are many questions that come up as the plot progresses and the most interesting ones involve the impetus of the individuals trapped together. This is owed largely to the fantastic talent of the three lead actors. Each one brings something different to the table, allowing for some extremely intriguing interactions.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead puts in a superb performance as the sympathetic protagonist, creating a character for which it is worth rooting. The pacing is perfect as we witness Michelle’s attempts to discover where the real danger of the situation lies. There are plenty of disturbing twists and turns along the way, resulting in several sequences that are truly terrifying on a psychological level.
The nerve-racking nature of the narrative is no small part due to John Goodman’s impeccable portrayal of the morally ambiguous Howard Stambler. The veteran actor steals the show by keeping the audience guessing as to whether his motivations are well-meaning or malevolent. He seems simultaneously innocuous and sinister, which makes the atmosphere all the more unnerving.
Even though Winstead and Goodman are the highlights here, there’s not a bad word to be said about John Gallagher, Jr.’s depiction of Emmett either. He comes across as something of an everyman and manages to be likable whenever he’s on screen.
What’s also impressive is how many genres the movie mixes together while keeping consistent. The shift between certain aspects of the story could have been jarring, but that definitely didn’t end up being the case. There’s a very natural evolution from one part of the plot to the next.
When all is said and done, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a tension filled thriller that will leave viewers on the edge of their seats for the entirety of its disquieting hundred and three minutes. Despite being difficult to compare to its found footage forebear, it is undoubtedly a more engrossing movie that provides some exciting possibilities for the future of its franchise.
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