An Anthology is Born with 10 Cloverfield Lane
I felt a strange sense of nostalgia as I walked to the ticket booth of the AMC movie theater and said "1 for Cloverfield, please." I haven't said those words in nearly a decade. When Cloverfield was first announced/released, I was ecstatic. The idea of a movie being hailed as the "American Godzilla" was very fascinating and I wanted so much to enjoy it and I did, I love Cloverfield. I think what Matt Reeves did in his directorial debut along with producer JJ Abrams was something to be very proud of. Now, Dan Trachtenberg can be just as proud of his own directorial debut.
When the first trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane hit the internet no more than two months ago, with a release date of March, I was very confused but excited at the same time. A rush of nostalgia, worry, and anticipation rushed over me and I frustratedly cursed Abrams out loud for being the Hollywood king of secrecy. How could the man come off of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and immediately throw us a new Cloverfield movie? Either way, I was immediately on board. However, I entered the theater cautiously, slowly stepping into the room as if testing the air for nuclear fallout. I had no idea what I was expecting but I knew what not to expect. We were told not to expect this film to be Cloverfield 2, and that was just something I was going to have to learn to be okay with.
10 Cloverfield Lane does an excellent job throwing a blindfold over your face and spinning you around until you lose your balance.
10 Cloverfield Lane is an immersive journey the same way Cloverfield was back in 2008, but it's a journey of a different beast if you'll excuse the pun. When Cloverfield premiered it rebranded a genre and it sparked a new wave of monster movies. 10 Cloverfield Lane is likely to spark a new wave in the world of invasions. It's because of the way the film handles the scenario that makes it all the more intriguing. Nothing about the film is 'in your face', it's the subtlety that gently massages the genre from beginning to end. That's what makes this such a strong movie.
As the credits started I could smell a very strong Twilight Zone aroma waft through the air. That aroma refused to leave my nostrils throughout the entire 103 minute run time. Trachtenberg set out to make a psychological thriller, but what he ended up with was something far more sinister and beautiful. The film takes place mostly in a fallout bunker and our core cast doesn't just bring us a sense of imprisonment, they bring us a sense of utter fear. John Goodman's (Monuments Men) Howard is endearing, all the while being one of the most menacing and terrifying characters I've seen in years. His mannerisms, his beats, his expressions, all of it makes you squirm and it's fantastic.
Both Mary Elizabeth Winstead (The Thing) and John Gallagher Jr. (The Newsroom) feed the audience a sense of misplaced urgency throughout the film. We're never quite sure who to trust, who to care for, and honestly who to believe. Howard's motives are unclear not only to the other characters but even more so to the audience. At one point I confusedly turned to my friend and whispered, "Are we supposed to like this guy?" It was that disequilibrium that intrigued me the most with this film. 10 Cloverfield Lane does an excellent job throwing a blindfold over your face and spinning you around until you lose your balance.
The cast was able to achieve something magical. The time they spend underground is never made clear but it's never needed because of how well they adapt to each other. A psychological thriller should never spell anything out to its audience and Trachtenberg was very careful to not break this rule. The secrecy and intrigue surrounding the characters mimicked the secrecy that engulfed the release of the film.
As I left the theater I was confused to say the least. I went in knowing this wouldn't be a direct sequel so I'm not sure what I was expecting, but nonetheless it shook me. It shook me to the point where I was frustrated because I couldn't grasp at what Trachtenberg and Abrahams were trying to accomplish. I simply didn't get it, but now I do. Now I understand the purpose of this film and the purpose of it living in the Cloverfield universe.
These worlds live and breathe on their own. The connection is not chronological, it's psychological.
If you approach 10 Cloverfield Lane with the hopes of it being a direct sequel to its predecessor, you are going to be disappointed and confused. Think of it as its own entity, which it is, because it is an incredibly well made film that brands itself with the Cloverfield name to stir the pot. Cloverfield is not a monster or a nuclear attack, Cloverfield is an event. This is the genius of JJ Abrams and his team at Bad Robot. They've created a term that can be used for any state of emergency. These worlds live and breathe on their own. The connection is not chronological, it's psychological and that's what makes 10 Cloverfield Lane an incredibly unique and enriching experience.