(This review is SPOILER-FREE)
10 Cloverfield Lane is the new JJ Abrams produced thriller that’s fast becoming a surprise hit. Produced in near total secrecy and advertised in intentionally vague manners, it’s a movie that seeks not to answer questions but raise them. And every single question was provoked in just one word: “Cloverfield.”
It could almost be called a slow burner. The tension gradually ratchets up and then- it explodes.
First thing’s first- this is a smarter, quieter, and all-around better movie than its kinda-sorta predecessor. While the original is an above-average monster flick, 10 Cloverfield Lane aims much higher. The writing is sharper, the direction clearer, the actors all leagues above the caliber of the original’s.
But to compare it to the movie that spawned it would be a mistake. They are almost nothing alike. And in 10 Cloverfield Lane, we get something much closer to Room. This is claustrophobic, tense, and subtle. It could almost be called a slow burner. The tension gradually ratchets up and then- it explodes. This is thanks largely to the script, deftly switching between tension-building mystery and dark humor. But it also succeeds through the cast, including an honest-to-god Oscar-worthy performance out of John Goodman. The set is well made, looking quite real (and at times even cozy). First time director Dan Tratchenberg does a great job keeping an air of tension over everything and when that slow burn turns into an explosion, it’s heart pounding, white-knuckle intense.
But then it fizzles.
The ending has drawn some controversy, and I’m going to agree with the dissenters here. If you haven’t seen the movie, just know I feel that the ending doesn’t mesh with the rest of the movie cohesively. (If you have, I go into more detail in the hidden part below.) It definitely lands rather shakily, with the writers clearly unsure exactly where they wanted to go. But that doesn’t do much to diminish the rest of the journey.
Bottom line: 10 Cloverfield Lane is tense and mysterious, if a little disjointed. If you’ve got the time, go see it in theatres. It’s worth it.
If you HAVE seen the movie, then you know that by “ending that doesn’t mesh” I mean “the last ten minutes are an all out alien invasion movie.” And it’s all well done alien invasion stuff, probably something forced in there to give the movie an excuse to call itself Cloverfield. But it just doesn’t work with the rest of the movie. It showed too much. It broke the realistic grit the movie had built up. I’m sure it’s a bit of a catch 22, and without the ending they wouldn’t have been able to market the movie the way they wanted, but there had to have been a better way. It was too much. Too jarring.
Also, the ending makes it feel like it could be a prequel/origin story for Edge of Tomorrow, showing how Rita joined the war effort.