10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
Release Date: March 11th, 2016 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Dan Trachtenberg Actors: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr., Suzanne Cryer, Bradley Cooper
fter a bitter fight with her fiancé, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) packs a bag and rushes off in her car. When her vehicle is suddenly hit and veers off the road, she loses consciousness only to awake a short time later chained to a wall in a desolate concrete room. Her captor introduces himself as Howard (John Goodman) and informs the petrified young girl that he has not kidnapped her, but actually saved her life from a devastating attack by foreign forces that has made the outside world no longer habitable. As Michelle is slowly allowed to explore the fallout bunker that is now her home, she begins to suspect that Howard has not been truthful about their situation or his intentions.
The music really sets the tone for this peculiar little thriller. Seemingly innocuous events are immediately ominous when Bear McCreary’s sensationally skin-crawling notes begin plucking at nerves. And it leads to a forceful, shocking title sequence, unmasking the “Cloverfield” name as well as a subtle reference to “10 Rillington Place,” an obscure British crime drama based on an actual serial killer.
But therein lies the problem with “10 Cloverfield Lane.” It’s quite obviously two separate pictures: an unnerving cat-and-mouse game in a claustrophobic, perpetually suspicious, downright scary environment – and producer J.J. Abrams’ independent influence on what was clearly a straightforward (but not without twisty moments of surprise), reality-based mystery. Had the two concepts been integrated proportionally, or perhaps if the traumatic revelations appeared in a different order, the fusion of incompatible elements could have been acceptable – or even uncommonly creative. Instead, audiences will be left with a feeling of incongruous projects getting warped together, solely to capitalize on the name recognition of the title to boost the viewership of what was, all by itself, a completely competent thriller.
“I’m sorry, but no one is looking for you.” It may look like a simple premise, but this three-person show is a nicely deceitful, wily character study and chilling adventure. Goodman is perfectly creepy as the abductor, who induces unwavering apprehension while harboring just a hint of neighborly concern (or perverse familial preservation). When his deceptively good intentions lean toward something along the lines of Stockholm syndrome-grooming, Winstead (and John Gallagher Jr. in a convincing turn) takes the spotlight as a proactive fighter resourcefully scrounging for clues or defense. Peppered with small bouts of comedy to calm audiences just long enough to rattle them with the next affright, the pacing is keen and the abundance of unknowns keeps things entertainingly agitating. The cinematography is also well used to cheat the visibility of dangers just offscreen. But by the end, despite successfully jangling nerves and generating roller-coaster horrors, “10 Cloverfield Lane” can’t escape the sense that an enormously unrelated story has been repurposed for the sake of marketability.
– The Massie Twins