10 Cloverfield Lane
Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Writers: Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, Damien Chazelle
Stars: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr.
“Problem solving always puts me in a very musical mood.”
This review will begin as a series of spoiler free quick takes, and then hit heavy on my very spoiler-y questions regarding 10 Cloverfield Lane‘s story. Set your jukeboxes appropriately folks.
John Goodman more than earned all 4 of the stars you see on this review and, like it or not, come this time next year I will be clamoring for him to get a nomination for this.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead deserves her own scale to be rated on, independent of not just any movie she’s in but anyone else working in Hollywood—she is simply a cut above the rest of her colleagues and absolutely fantastic here; using her face to convey the work her brain is doing to solve problems. It’s an awesome performance, and encapsulates a lot of the best things about 10 Cloverfield Lane (that it is so much about problem solving and using your wits in the face of danger against impossible odds. It’s a woman who does these things and is shown to simply be capable of them, rather than giving some crazy, reductive explanation as to how a women could be so capable).
John Gallagher, Jr. earns the 4 stars here by handling his much subtler role so deftly, bouncing like a pinball back and forth between these two titans.
And Dan Trachtenberg comes out of this a new force to be reckoned with, delivering one of the most confidently directed debut movies I’ve seen from a first time filmmaker. Now that’s some 4-star shit if I’ve ever heard it.
I loved just about everything about this film (except the tonal shift at the end). From the sound design to the set and costume design, 10 Cloverfield Lane is meticulously crafted; wound just as tight as its script. Trachtenburg readily dethrones Shyamalan as our generations Hitchcock (a title Shyamalan has only held onto by default, but Trachtenburg earns the shit out of it) by using the most modest of means to create an endlessly twisting tension which he allows even his darkest characters to alleviate with perfectly executed situational humor.
ABOUT THAT ENDING
I mentioned the ending being a problem—I actually like the ending quite a bit and think it delivers just about everything you’d want from a blockbuster finale. But it is a pretty big tonal shift to end up in a blockbuster finale after the tension of such a small movie. Unfortunately, as much as it does for certain themes in the film (mostly the ones related to Howard), it undermines some of the other themes (mostly the ones related to Michelle).
But ultimately I do like 10 Cloverfield Lane’s ending and think it’s rather awesome that this small movie opens up into this much bigger film in the final 10 minutes. I just wish it had spent either a little more time between the events in The Cellar and the events above The Cellar (hey that’s a fun way to use the film’s original title) OR simply spent more time in the events above The Cellar. As it is, it felt like we rushed into another movie, like it was a bit disjointed from the film that preceded it.
But that doesn’t detract from just how stellar this movie is (only a star’s worth!) and it actually brings me to my very spoiler heavy question regarding this movie. How much does Howard actually know about what’s going on above ground? So far all of the theories people are laying down about the movie, or the one thing people seem to love about it (and I agree, in their reading of the film this is very cool thing) is that Howard is both totally crazy and totally right. This is certainly an interesting read of 10 Cloverfield Lane, but it assumes Howard is telling the truth throughout the film, which he is shown many times not to have done. And I know the ARG supports some of the things he says (like that he worked on satellites and thus might actually know about invading martians) however hardly any of that makes it to the movie, so on the movie’s own terms I’d like to question the validity of Howard’s story.
There’s a part of me that thinks Howard doesn’t know a goddamn thing about what’s going on up there, or that there’s a problem at all. The fact that (I guess this isn’t so much a fact as a healthy assumption based on evidence) he already kidnapped and killed one girl using this bunker makes me wonder: “Well what did he tell that girl? How did he convince her she needed to be trapped down here with him?” I have to assume he told a similar story about contaminated air (which by the way turns out to only be half true). So if he’s done this before, and in the end it turns out his explanation is wrong (yes he eventually says something about aliens, but it’s an offhanded remark by a crazy person. He still clearly believes and insists its just that the air is unsafe) then does he know what’s happening above ground, or did he just kidnap a girl and get very lucky when evidence for his lie just kept popping up at every turn?
I think that this is an unlikely explanation for sure, however I do think it’s interesting to think about, and adds yet another layer to 10 Cloverfield Lane. Think about the scene with the lady begging to come in at the bunker door. Imagine that this happens and Howard is both surprised and relieved to find evidence of a story he’s completely making up and just starts using it to his advantage. How much scarier is that? Unlikely sure, but very interesting to think on.
And it makes me excited to re-watch this and see if there are other details that might support this theory. Anyone out there have this thought when watching the movie? Anyone agree with me or wanna throw some evidence at me that makes this completely not true? Comment below!
The Cloverfield Paradox
Director: Julius Onah
Writer: Oren Uziel
Stars: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo, Daniel Brühl
The Cloverfield Paradox feels like four different movies made by four different directors. Just watch COHERENCE if you’re interested in the premise of this. I literally can’t find the motivation to write about all the ways in which this falls apart, almost as soon as it starts. It is bad in that way that is just boring and uninteresting; it doesn’t warrant the carpal tunnel this site (Letterboxd) is surely giving me. And man do I like the first two movies in this series, especially 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE. That’s an excellent, well considered thriller that works in a vacuum and as an entry in a series. The Cloverfield Paradox works as neither—it’s connection is almost too literal, kind of breaking the overall spell of series for me unfortunately. I really regret being so negative on it, but this is not for me.