By Darin Skaggs
I’m not sure what the connection between Matt Reeves’ Cloverfield and Dan Trachtenberg’s new film 10 Cloverfield Lane is. I wonder if they are related at all, it might have absolutely nothing to do with the 2008 found footage film. If I have any real complaint for this new movie it is that the audience will be preoccupied wondering what the connection is between the two, but when all the sequel anticipation dies down for people the movie will most likely get the praise it deserves and we will all see the movie for what it is, a thrilling mystery about three stubborn people waiting out the apocalypse.
In 10 Cloverfield Lane, the format takes a more traditional go at filmmaking instead of its found footage predecessor. It all begins with Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) in the process of packing her bags for she is about to leave her boyfriend. She does and drives far, far away. After hanging up after many dropped calls from her boyfriend, a car hits Michelle and she swerves off the road. When she comes to she finds herself locked in an empty room chained to the pipeline. She finds out she is being held captive by the paranoid and crazy Howard (John Goodman) who has claimed to save her life from some sort of attack that has potentially ended the world and most likely polluted the air. Understandably, she is reluctant to believe him and does best with fellow resident of the homey, underground bunker Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) to get down to the bottom of the entire situation.
Not only is Michelle capable of sneaking around solving the mysteries, she also acts as a female MacGyver solving problems with everyday items and even fabricating her own hazmat suit. The film never goes out of its way to explain why she is so smart or handy. There is no call back to her childhood where her father figure taught her everything she knows, she just knows it. This is another great female character to come out of a genre film that is her own person and is undeniably capable of anything without categorizing her as different from other women. The final scene, no spoilers, before the credit just contributes to the attitude of letting people do what they are skilled at, no questions asked.
Before those last few moments the movie is a claustrophobic, psychological thriller. All three cast members are absolutely amazing. Most of the script by Josh Campell, Matthew Stuecken and touch ups by Whiplash director Damien Chazelle are tense scenes of wondering if Howard is the hero he claims to be or is he the villain of the piece. There are a few lines of backstory that with other, uncommitted actors could just fall apart and ruin the pace of the film. These three actors really give their all, whether they are cooking, eating at the dinner table, listening to the jukebox or worrying about loud noises coming from outside the bunker. These moments lend themselves to a good sense of fear and a much needed amount of humor. The two tones are mixed well here and never get in each others way so much so that you could feel scared for Michelle’s safety in one scene and be laughing at the inherent goofiness of Howard’s antics at the same time.
The ending, and don’t worry no spoilers still, finds a perfect way to express if it was the right answer to believe Howard’s insane ramblings of the end of the world. It expresses just how stubborn Michelle and Howard are, one begging the two others not to leave and having had the bunker built in the first place while the other can never be quite satisfied with these claims even though there is more than one indication that Howard is correct. 10 Cloverfield Lane needs to be seen. Go in knowing that it might not have any connection with the 2008 film except its namesake and on its own it is a unique, brilliant thriller.