Movie Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane (Dan Trachtenberg)

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CAPSULE: Michelle is leading a normal life until she’s in a car accident and wakes up in an underground cell that, as she is told, was why she survived the end of the world outside. She does not know if she should elude her captor or cooperate with the man who saved her life. This is a taut film that flips reality and tears up your expectations of where the film is going. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10 The first thing that film buffs will notice about 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE is the title. Does the film have something to do with producer JJ Abrams’ CLOVERFIELD? That was a found-footage film with something big attacking Manhattan. Well this film’s plot may not have anything to do with the other film. Then again, any conclusions you draw from what you see on the screen are likely to be wrong. This is not a found-footage film and does have one or two stars. But the viewer is cautioned. Abrams likes to toy with his audience. Whatever you think is going on, in five minutes things may seem entirely different and you will likely have new theories as to what is going on. Abrams keeps shaking the viewer’s understanding around like a cat with a field mouse.

So what do we know about what is going on? Well, Michelle (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead of the most recent THE THING and currently of “Mercy Street”) is leaving her husband to strike out on her own. Driving down a dark country road suddenly her car is hit by a pickup truck and is badly rolled end over end. When she wakes up she has good news and bad news. The good news is that she is not badly hurt. She will have to spend some time on crutches. That may be a little difficult since she is chained to a wall. Not a very nice wall either. She is in some sort of a cell with cinder block walls. That is the bad news. But then Howard (John Goodman) visits the cell. It seems this is not so much a little cell as a large room in some sort of underground shelter or bunker. Howard has brought her there as a mercy. How is it a mercy? It seems that while she was unconscious the world as we know it has come to an end.

Apparently there was some sort of an attack and maybe by chemical means, maybe by nuclear means, everybody is dead. She can probably leave, but as soon as she steps outside whatever killed off most of the human race would probably kill her. Now what kind of a ridiculous story is that? Well, maybe Howard has a wildly active imagination or maybe most of the human race is gone. And evidence keeps building on either side of the argument. John Gallagher, Jr., plays Emmett, who shares the underground bunker and has seen enough evidence to know that Howard is absolutely right. Or are they both crazy?

John Goodman is best known as a comic actor. This is one of only a few films in which he can be frightening and is imposing as a possible dangerous psychotic. If he were just unambiguously shown early on to be psychotic that would be one thing, but with director Dan Trachtenberg and writers Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken and Damien Chazelle toying with the viewer the viewer finds him/herself straining to look at him for clues to the central question of understanding him. Winstead is quite good in a role that is not particularly new or cutting edge. She is the main character, but could have been a little more complex. JJ Abrams has found a film that would keep the budget down much as he did (differently) in CLOVERFIELD. This is a smallish film with a limited cast. Most of the film takes place in a bunker. But the film does seem to be pleasing audiences in a time when so many films are overstuffed based on comic books. I would rate 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

Originally appeared on: http://leepers.us/10clover.htm

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About Mark Leeper

Mark Leeper has had a near life-long love of mathematics, science fiction, and cinema. Together with his wife Evelyn he founded a science fiction club at AT&T Bell Laboratories. Since 1978 they have published a weekly newsletter for their club for which Mark writes a weekly column and about sixty film reviews a year, all of which are available on the Internet.