Films | Review | Dan Trachtenberg's 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
10 Cloverfield Lane… I hope nobody will mind if I completely disassociate this film from Cloverfield, and also possibly ignore the whole Cloverfield universe completely with this review. Mainly because I don’t care about it. Fuck Cloverfield, man that’s the only found footage film that’s given me motion sickness. This film kept me guessing, and guessing, and guessing. It possessed fantastic plot twists, rich characters, intrigue, intensity, and my beloved Mary Elizabeth Winstead (looking at you, Ramona Flowers). When I went into this, I had honestly no idea what I was expecting. I’d seen one trailer, which had only hinted at it being a thriller; nothing more, nothing less. And it was so much more than I thought it would be!
So let’s get into 10 Cloverfield Lane on its stand alone. Spoilers after the jump, yo.
10 Cloverfield Lane’s post-prologue opening scene of Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) waking in Howard’s (John Goodman) bunker asks more questions than the entire film answers. Honestly, I still have questions that this movie never answered. But whatever. That opening scene, the catalyst that kick starts the movie’s plot, is gold. If the viewer went into 10 CL with no preconceptions, as I did, this scene allowed me to be lulled into a false sense of what was happening, believing Michelle’s perception; Howard is a pervert murderer who has locked her in his creepy sex murder dungeon. End of.
God damn, this film plays off that so well. They make sure to keep Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.) hidden initially, utilising his audible but not visible presence to hint at another woman being captive, or at least that’s how I interpreted it. So, Emmett. Let’s talk about him for a minute.
The whole atmosphere relaxed as soon as he was introduced; I loved his character and what he brought to the relationship dynamic, but purely for tension’s sake maybe it would have been better if he hadn’t been included? I’m getting ahead of myself in the film here, but Howard could have easily threatened Michelle on her own with the drum of acid, shot her in the leg or arm or something to wound her and let her know he meant business. Emmett didn’t really need to be there to make Michelle more afraid of Howard than she already was, she already suspected him of being a murdering obsessive sociopath. He was great for exposition when Michelle showed him the girl Howard had claimed to be his daughter, and Emmett revealed that instead the picture was of a girl from his high school who had gone missing. He also helped Michelle get some items she needed for the gas mask, ignoring the fact she could have got them herself, but other than that? He could have just been a ghost for the good he did, á la the Korean horror film A Tale of Two Sisters. But, I digress.
Give or take Emmett (which Howard did; the life of, I mean), 10CL keeps the tension high throughout, constantly eluding to Howard either being a liar or delusional. As a viewer, I was right there along for the ride with Michelle on whether Howard was actually telling the truth regarding the world having been attacked. I was rooting for her to kill him and escape; I refused to believe the pigs had died from the air being poisoned, convinced Howard had done something to them himself to convince her of his story. Even when the woman appeared and tried to get in, I was still a little on the fence until she began to headbutt the door. Even though I was somewhat convinced of an attack, I still didn't even consider that aliens might be the cause of it; I just figured in this universe North Korea had finally got its shit together and made a warhead capable of travelling further than their coastline.
What I wish had been explored more though, and I know I'm not alone in this, is Howard's backstory. So a friend showed me the subreddit of 10CL after I watched it, and it went into so much more detail about Howard's background like his job, and how long he's been expecting an attack. I want to know what happened to his daughter, like, did she really move away with her mother, or did Howard do something to her, or maybe both of them. What happened to the girl from Emmett's high school who scratched the word "help" into the ceiling window of the bunker? I mean, I'm not an idiot, it's obvious that she's dead, but come on man, details! Why her, how long was she trapped there for, why did Howard end up killing her, was she the first girl he'd kidnapped and imprisoned since his daughter, or were there others, did he do the same originally to his daughter to keep her from her mother?? I demand answers!
I will say that although I didn't mind the ending, the pacing from the bunker and how well that's laid out and structured, to the like, adrenaline-fulled action at the end... the contrast was just kind of jarring. Plus, I'm not in any way in hell excusing that Molotov cocktail and her just destroying a massive alien spaceship. That was too much. She could have just fought off that one alien that was chasing her, and I would have accepted that and even been happy with it, but her taking down that craft was a step too far. It was dumb and gratuitous. We already realise Michelle is a resourceful badass, you don't need her to do that to for us to root for her or believe she can handle herself.
With the ending of 10 Cloverfield Lane being left open-ended as well, with what looks like wiggle room for a sequel, overall I'm really happy with it. A very enjoyable film that kept me guessing and on the edge of my seat for almost every second.