j.j. abrams

Film Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane

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There’s very little I can say about this film without venturing into spoiler territory, so I will say very little.

Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is fleeing her old life after a tiff with her fiancé and finds herself in a car accident. When she comes to, she is hooked up to a drip with her leg chained to a concrete wall. Apparently, some kind of doomsday event has transpired and she is just lucky that Howard (John Goodman) was kind enough to pick her up and keep her in his bunker. Only she’s not so sure she wants to stay there, regardless of whatever poison gas/zombies/space worms might be waiting for them on the surface.

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You have probably already heard that this so-called sequel is worlds away from Cloverfield (2008). What hasn’t changed since 2008, however, is the delight the franchise apparently takes in playing with audience expectations. Cloverfield had an almost nihilistic ability to dispatch main characters with little fanfare; this worked well with the lack of empathy inherent to the found footage format. 10 is perfectly willing to show us what we don’t want to see, but it isn’t found footage. Instead, it employs a narrative perspective limited to its average-Jane protagonist. This lack of outside interference creates intimacy between audience and heroine and allows the twists – and there are many – to have more impact.

There are moments when the film achieves an almost Hitchcockian grace. There are many parallels to the portly master’s work: a domineering parental figure, a single location, duplicitous characters, the staircase motif, quasi-platonic male-female partnership, and, bien sûr, the twists. Audiences will find themselves forever changing their mind about Goodman’s character. This is as much down to the writing as it is to Goodman’s fantastic performance. He is exceptionally well cast; the natural tension between his good-guy, Roseanne/Pixar pedigree and his intimidating physique is used to its full advantage. In typical funnyman fashion, he scores some comic relief points, as well.

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Be warned that the third act does not quite live up to the first two, and that the twists become increasingly ludicrous – although this might not bother you. There are some parts that just don’t add up, some loose ends that are left untied and certain moments that are just too much muchness. This would have worked fine in Cloverfield, with its trademark combination of an ostensibly realist approach on the one hand and monster-movie madness on the other, but 10 leads us to believe we’re watching a different kind of movie.

Perhaps this bait-and-switch is the whole point, but the effect is undermined by the film’s promotion as a sequel to Cloverfield. Ultimately, I think this brilliant, tense thriller suffers from being two different things at once. If this awkward pairing gets more people to see the film, then perhaps it’s justified. I’m torn between acknowledging that the things I like about 10 have nothing to do with monsters (and that this association, therefore, detracts from my enjoyment) and admitting that I kind of admire the playful way the filmmakers have addressed the issue of mythology and fictional universe. People will have radically different experiences of the same event, and 10 Cloverfield Lane uses this fact that make something unpredictable.

The movie opened in US cinemas on 11th March and on 18th March in the UK, and is gradually conquering the globe as I write this.

Until next time,

Iota

 

 

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