Monday, March 14, 2016

A Reel Review: 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE


 
In 2008, producer JJ Abrams and director Matt Reeves unleashed upon an unsuspecting world the giant-monster invasion flick CLOVERFIELD. Here in 2016, Abrams continues the story by bringing aboard a new director and goes for a smaller setting, but piles on the drama in 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE

Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is in a horrific car accident and wakes up in an underground bunker run by Howard (John Goodman), who won’t let her leave because he believes there has been a cataclysmic event outside that has poisoned the air. Michelle and her fellow captive Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) begin to suspect that not everything is as it seems.

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE is a film which plays in many different genres, beginning with horror. The early goings of Michelle’s wicked car accident leading to her waking up in a strange place half-nude with an IV sticking out of her arm is the stuff most nightmares are made of, and the situation becomes even more frightening as Howard is revealed to be a rough, tyrannical, and somewhat paranoid man with mood swings that range from pleasant to mean in a blink. Eventually things settle in and the characters begin to trust each other, as they accept that they really can’t leave the bunker because of the toxic outside air, and the film shifts into a patched-together family drama. But one small twist leads to another, and Michelle and Emmett being to doubt everything; from the toxic air to what’s happening outside, right down to Michelle’s accident. 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE plays a game of maybe-it-is and maybe-it-isn’t, and as the characters doubt Howard, as does the audience.

Ninety-five percent of the film takes place in a single setting, and first-time director Dan Trachtenberg makes excellent use out of every inch. The bunker is beautifully designed with all of the comforts of home; a working kitchen, living-area, well-stocked pantry and facilities…and it seems like a nice place to live during an apocalypse if not for the drama and tension that keeps building. The mystery of the story is thick, and Trachtenberg plays the characters against each other and the situation beautifully.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead is marvelous in her role. She displays all of the fear we would expect in such a situation, but still digs deep to find strength. John Gallagher Jr. is excellent as well, but he seems to be overshadowed by how good Winstead is, and especially the great John Goodman…who turns in a powerhouse performance as Howard. Goodman, in his long and varied career, has played the teddy bear and the sinister, but never both at the same time and it is a marvel to see. The mood swings, and there are many of them, change in a hurry, and Goodman nails each turn perfectly. By far, it is the best of his career.

The whopper of the finale dips firmly into science-fiction, and establishes a connection to the original CLOVERFIELD film (but true to the spirit of this film, maybe it does, and maybe it doesn’t), and by the time the credits roll it is debatable whether or not all of the threads have been wrapped up. The ending may not work for everyone, but the journey to get there is more than worth it. This is a film which is wrapped up in mystery, deceit, terror, and tension…proudly wearing its Hitchcock and early TWILIGHT ZONE influences on its sleeves. The film is loaded with “maybe”, but there is none concerning how good it is.

BOTTOM LINE: See it
 
 
 

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