The first Cloverfield was sort of JJ Abrams Mystery Box ethos writ large. Inspired by a visit to Japan to create an American Kaiju tale, it very strongly reflected the times, filmed in a found footage format and featuring a horde of bystanders shooting pictures on their phones of the disembodied head of the Statue of Liberty.
The film was previewed in front of the first Transformers film, but few details were released. The film came out the following January and was a moderate box office and critical success.
The first film took the characters on a harrowing voyage across New York to rescue one of their friends in the midst of a giant monster attack. So what does this new claustrophobic thriller have to do with the prior film? Find out after the jump (no spoilers)!
10 Cloverfield Lane is a thematic relative more than a direct sequel to Cloverfield. It starts when Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Michelle packs up to leave her partner Ben. Driving out of town, she finds herself in a car accident, regaining consciousness chained to a rail in a bunker run by John Goodman’s Howard. Howard tells her he rescued her and the outside world has been destroyed by an attack.
Even though Howard’s story is corroborated by John Gallagher Jr’s Emmet, Michelle soon attempts to escape, only to be confronted with a vision of the world outside. The three of them begin to live together in the bunker, but life in their claustrophobic shelter soon starts to fray.
The film is very dissimilar from the original. Whereas Cloverfield was the tale of a group of friends trying to survive an unearthly disaster, in this film it is a tale of suspicion without escape.
The bunker soon becomes a familiar setting, and Goodman’s Howard is a looming presence that’s impossible to ignore. He seems constantly on the brink of an explosion, and even in his calm moments you’re afraid of the violence he seems capable of. Goodman’s shed the mien of tv uberdad Dan Connor, mostly through his two decades working with the Coen brothers, and this is one of his stronger performances. He hints at dark truths before the script begins to tell us things.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead has a background in horror films, and does final girls through history proud. Michelle’s proclivity to run away from her problems turns into a survival technique, and she never lets her guard down.
The third member of the bunker trio, Emmet, seems slightly out of place. He is a local who helped Howard build his survival bunker and unlike Michelle, his technique has been to recoil from opportunities rather than run from difficulties. Emmet is sweet, although on occasion seems to fit into the role of a expositor more than a fully rounded character.
10 Cloverfield Lane is a claustrophobic thriller set, with a hero who finds herself the only one who can protect herself. If you go in looking for another Kaiju based drama, you’ll be disappointed, but if you accept you’re getting a thriller more akin to a good Twilight Zone episode, you’ll enjoy what you get. I’m not sure what purpose the naming convention was trying to perform, but I’ll keep an eye open for any other films that share the name.