It’s easy to forget how big Cloverfield was at the time but it was massive. With an ambiguous trailer and J. J. Abrams attracted it inspired the kind of pre-release buzz most movies dream of. Naturally I was sucked in as well wondering what this mysterious film was about. Was it a giant monster? A Voltron movie? Something related to Lost that would immediately lose my interest? When it finally did come out I wasn’t disappointed. A mix of found footage and kaiju film it not only was everything I wanted it to be. Like everyone else I was wondering when a sequel would come out and, it being produced by J. J. Abrams, we heard nothing. Abrams and directed Drew Goddard moved on to bigger and better things. So imagine my surprise when a trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane dropped out of nowhere earlier this year. Just as mysterious as before this not-quite sequel captured my original just like the original did nearly a decade ago. Needless to say I had to see this the day it came out.
Leaving the city after arguing with her fiancé Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) crashes her car along a desolate road. Waking up she quickly realizes that she is locked in an underground bunker by a doomsday prepper Howard (John Goodman). Told that the world in uninhabitable by a fellow occupant (John Gallagher, Jr). Quickly realizing things aren’t as they seem Michelle is determined to escape the bunker at any cost.
Now 10 Cloverfield Lane is quite different than the original Cloverfield; the claim that it was a “spiritual sequel” is very much true. No longer done in the cinema verite style it is less of a sci-fi movie like the original this is more what I call an isolationist thriller (examples- Gravity or Buried). Like those movies it lives or dies by the acting and luckily 10 Cloverfield Lane delivers. Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Michelle is one of the better final girls I have seen in years. While a victim she is a strong character throughout. Maybe I am just too ingrained with the final girl in the traditional sense but this young woman showing ingenuity and resolve, even when emotionally drained, makes for a fantastic watch. Certainly a nice balance to John Gallagher Jr’s Emmett. Surviving in the bunker with Michelle he seems more happy to be alive than anything else which brings a nice contrast.
Hands down though the MVP of the film is John Goodman as the threatening yet sometimes pitiable Howard. One minute he comes off as a disturbed man barely holding it together and the next a survivalist doing his best to keep everyone safe, no matter how extreme. As Michelle, and the audience, learns more about Howard the better the performance gets with the smallest changes making the biggest impact. Goodman really does an amazing job and to see him stretch so much is a sight to behold.
Oddly enough it’s when the movie becomes more like the first film that I think things start to falter. Without spoiling too much I’ll just say that the tone of the movie takes a pretty drastic shift. Keep in mind that it all looks great and is well filmed. If the movie were more like this the entire time I think the movie could be just as good. While far from film breaking it did throw me off a bit.
After years of waiting and scouring J. J. Abrams interviews I finally got another Cloverfield and I couldn’t be happier about it. Different from the original it is a tautly written, masterfully acted thriller. While I have some minor grievances there’s no denying that 10 Cloverfield is an exciting movie well worth your time. Even more exciting, at least to me, I love the idea of an anthology series; a series of different unique and different genre films working under the same title. Hopefully we don’t have to wait nearly a decade for the next chapter to the Cloverfield saga.