Review: '10 Cloverfield Lane' a guessing game of sanity, trust

Video by Paramount Pictures

Cloverfield is back, but not in the way you’d expect. J.J Abrams, the director who has brought us great films such as “Super 8,” “Star Wars: Episode VII” and of course “Cloverfield” now brings us “10 Cloverfield Lane.”

The film, released on March 11, isn’t exactly a sequel to the highly successful “Cloverfield,” but it does exist in the same world. Whether or not you notice the similarities between the two films is up to you.

“10 Cloverfield Lane” is most definitely a film to remember. It hits most of the points you’d expect a film to hit. J.J Abrams’ “mystery box” technique, a method he explained in a 2008 TED Talk, can be seen throughout the film, as in most of his films. In fact mystery surrounds the viewer for most of the film. As much as this plethora of mystery was great, there came a point during the film where I began to feel detached from the action and drama that was occurring.

The film started off with a terrible car crash involving Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who plays Michelle, the main character. When she wakes up after the crash, she finds herself alone in a cellar chained to the wall by her leg. What then ensues is a guessing game of sanity and trust that will shock or annoy you until the credits roll.

John Goodman plays Howard, the mentally unstable cellar host, and does an incredible job of setting the first taste of horror for Michelle. He was spot on with his good guy-bad guy contrasting personality that added to the mystery box equation. Howard was essentially one of the best parts of the film, nicely moving the plot along.

There is finally a sense of safety in the film for Michelle when John Gallagher Jr., who plays Emmet, is introduced. Upon meeting him, Michelle realizes she is not alone with Howard in the cellar and gains a sense of trust for the host after she notices that Emmet has not been harmed.

Howard begins to talk of what happened outside of the cellar. He talks of a possible alien invasion, a chemical attack and the end of the world; that’s when we first lose trust in Howard. His obsession with conspiracy theories makes us question the rest of his sanity. This pattern of losing and gaining trust for Howard is repeated one too many times throughout the film and finishes with an explosive climax that kept me asking: why?

When the plot-line inside the cellar continued on and grew more intricate and complex, it became clear that there wasn’t just one storyline in the film. There were two: inside the cellar and outside the cellar, and they mixed like oil and vinegar.

It seemed that once the first storyline ended, the second made the first obsolete. There seemed to be no lasting reason for why parts of the first storyline, in the cellar, should have existed. At the end of the film, it seemed like a waste of time.

I’ll try not to spoil the film too much, although I think it is quite obvious to anyone who has seen the trailers that Michelle eventually escapes from the cellar. Yet the ending was lackluster and unrealistic. I was hoping for a good tie-in to the “Cloverfield” film, but only received a questionable stage setting film that set up an open space for sequels galore.

“10 Cloverfield Lane” poses as a great thriller for the first three quarters of run time, but it falters to finish off strong. It makes me wonder whether or not the cellar portion of the film was slated to be a separate film and the production company slapped the noticeable “Cloverfield” name to the title in order to add revenue.

Regardless, fans of the “Cloverfield” film will flock to see “10 Cloverfield Lane.” Hopefully the films that follow will clear up the confusion that this film left in its wake.

Score: 7.5/10


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