10 Cloverfield Lane Review: Fewer Gimmicks, More Tension

Photo Credit:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/film/10-cloverfield-lane/review/

It’s been eight years since Cloverfield dropped seemingly out of nowhere and left the zeitgeist nearly as quickly without answering a single question. Fans of the polarizing found-footage monster movie shouldn’t expect any answers from 10 Cloverfield Lane. The film feels entirely different, abandoning the chaotic streets of Manhattan for a small bomb shelter in Louisiana. If there are connections (and based on producer J.J. Abrams’ track record, you know there are), they matter little to the plot. This “spiritual successor,” as the Force Awakens director called it, is merely an intimate thriller that takes the horror of Room and hammers it home for an hour and 45 minutes.

Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winestead) gets into a car accident after an emotional, dialogueless opening shows her packing to leave her fiancé. Next thing we know, she wakes up in a bomb shelter attached to an IV and her leg handcuffed to a pipe. Her would-be captor is Howard (John Goodman), but he says the world ended and that if she leaves, the air will kill her. Trapped with them is Emmet (John Gallagher, Jr.), who works to bring some lighthearted material to the close-quarters intensity.

Without a lick of information to go on, first-time director Dan Trachtenberg has to pull some stellar performances to make this beast work. And boy does he. Goodman has never been better, playing out the progression of the creepy kid from high school you should have been nicer to as a lonely, middle-aged monster. It’s the first great performance of 2016 and one that’ll surely give you nightmares. Winestead and Gallagher, Jr. are more than capable of bouncing off of him and find themselves heading into some serious dramatic territory as well as things progress.

But Trachtenberg also proved himself as a new face in Hollywood who knows how to build some serious tension. Where his producer, Abrams, has seemingly channeled Spielberg, Trachtenberg goes right for the money to embody Hitchcock. The characters are intricate while the plot refuses to give answers.

The third act awkwardly jolts into some potential mythology building for the Cloverfield universe, which feels more forced to set up the next mystery installment than a genuine part of this story. But the scenes themselves work and finish Michelle’s arc in a meaningful enough manner. Still, one wonders what an anthology franchise where Abrams simply hires up and coming talent to get their feet wet in different genres would look like. But however this Cloverfield universe unfolds, keeping it small and character-focused in done-to-death genres is working very well for it. 10 Cloverfield Lane doesn’t advance the story as many might want, but it’ll leave you on the edge of your seat anyway. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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