Movie Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane
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10 Cloverfield Lane
Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Writers: Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken, Damien Chazelle
Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, John Gallagher Jr.
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Rated PG-13 | 105 Minutes
Release Date: March 11, 2016

“Monsters come in many forms…”

Directed by Dan Trachtenberg, 10 Cloverfield Lane stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) as Michelle, a woman who wakes up in an underground bomb shelter after a nerve-shattering car accident. The bunker is owned by Howard (John Goodman), a paranoid survivalist who believes that a widespread chemical attack has left Earth’s surface uninhabitable.

Michelle isn’t the only person Howard has saved, however. Also living in the shelter is Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.), a good ol’ boy who saw the attack with his own two eyes. Howard offers his guests food, water, and breathable air, but Michelle remains suspicious. Believing the conspiracy theorist may be harboring a nefarious agenda, she plans to escape the shelter and take her chances with whatever awaits her on the outside.

10 Cloverfield Lane originated from a 2012 spec script penned by John Campbell and Matt Stuecken titled The Cellar. Paramount Pictures purchased the script with the intent to develop the film for Insurge Pictures, the studio’s specialty label for micro-budget movies.

Enter Bad Robot Productions, J.J. Abrams‘ production company, which brought in Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) to rewrite Campbell and Stuecken’s draft. Along the way, the project – codenamed Valencia – evolved to become a kindred spirit to Bad Robot’s 2008 film, Cloverfield.

I mention all of this because the story behind 10 Cloverfield Lane is as puzzling and peculiar as the movie itself. At a TED conference several years ago, Abrams described his love for mystery – a passion evident in his films and TV shows, including Lost, Cloverfield, and Super 8 – with the idea of the “mystery box.”

“Mystery is the catalyst for imagination… maybe there are times when mystery is more important than knowledge. What are stories, but mystery boxes?… What’s a bigger mystery box than a movie theater? You know, you go to the theater, you’re just so excited to see anything “” the moment the lights go down is often the best part.”

10 Cloverfield Lane is a mystery box inside a mystery box, a movie that started out as one thing but evolved into something familiar and yet altogether different. It isn’t a direct sequel to Matt Reeves’ found-footage flick – the two films don’t share the same fictional universe or continuity – but they do share the same DNA. Abrams and Trachtenberg are taking the Cloverfield “brand” and expanding it into an anthology series akin to The Twilight Zone.

10 Cloverfield Lane is a claustrophobic, exhilarating descent into the unknown. Shocking and suspenseful, Trachtenberg’s feature debut is an eerie and entertaining psychological thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat. With gripping performances from an outstanding cast, 10 Cloverfield Lane is an exercise in tension that is as unpredictable as it is unrelenting.

Note: Expectations will make or break your experience with this film. If you’re expecting to see the Cloverfield monster, or a film set in that universe that continues its mythology, you may be disappointed. If you’re looking for a weird, compact thriller that ratchets up the suspense with each increasingly bonkers twist, then you’ll have a great time.


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