10 Cloverfield Lane (2016 Review)

14 Mar

In what is being touted as “The best sci-fi blockbuster thriller of the decade”, 10 Cloverfield Lane marks a different approach to storytelling than its cinematic sibling Cloverfield. Released in 2008 as a found-footage alien invasion, the former isn’t so much as a direct predecessor as it was inspiration for this J.J. Abrams-produced mystery.

Something has happened. Something big. Our heroine Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wakes up in a sort of make-shift hospital after a car accident. She learns that “an attack” of some sort has left much of the civilized world in shambles and she had been brought underground for her own safety by a mysterious ex-military man named Howard (John Goodman).  Tensions between the two characters rise as the films progresses, creating unexpected results.

Directed by Dan Trachtenberg and co-written by Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, and Damien Chazelle, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a quieter, scaled back, and more intimate film than Cloverfield, though equally as anxiety-ridden and claustrophobic. By restricting most of the action to a few rooms, the film becomes heavily reliant on the writing strength of its plot and characterization. Unfortunately, this is where 10 Cloverfield Lane falls a bit short; the few characters are simply a flat and uninteresting mix of tropes we have seen many times before, and the narrative becomes convoluted and veers dramatically off course during the film’s second half. At points the film almost feel comically hokey in the same way something like Grand Piano does (a film that was also written by Chazelle). However, if you liberally apply your suspension of disbelief and just accept whatever happens, then 10 Cloverfield Lane actually becomes a lot of fun. Though it’s filled with tropes and plot holes, the story, most importantly, is a largely unpredictable slow burn, with several twists awaiting the viewer during the chaotic third-act.

Bottom Line: Though it suffers from basic character tropes and less-than-stellar writing, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a surprisingly fun and unpredictable thriller if one is willing to suspend expectations. 

Rating: 6/10

Film Recipe: Room War Of The Worlds 

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