"10 Cloverfield Lane" is directed by first time director Dan Trachtenberg and it stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as a girl who finds herself in an underground bomb shelter owned by John Goodman and he claims that he saved her life after a cataclysmic event that struck Earth. The movie then becomes a psychological thriller with both Winstead and the audience questioning if Goodman can be trusted, or if he's just a psychopathic liar who's up to some shady stuff.
The big thing about this movie is the fact that nobody even knew it existed until the past January. The production was very low-key and it actually succeeded in remaining a mystery both in terms of it being made and what it's actually about. Now technically, it's a sequel to the 2008 found footage monster movie, "Cloverfield", but at the same time, it's not. It has the "Cloverfield" name in the title and this movie makes very tiny, barely noticeable references to the first film, but this movie manages to stand on its own without the first movie being necessary. Producer J. J. Abrams has described it as a "blood relative" to the first film, but just know there's an argument to be made that this movie isn't a true sequel.
As for the quality of the movie itself, it really surprised me a lot of regards. Starting off with the cast, we're limited to Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, and John Gallagher Jr. With Gallagher, he gave a very good performance as another person stuck in the bomb shelter, playing up the aspect of paranoia and confusion, but as good as he is in this role, he's overshadowed by how great Winstead and Goodman are. I liked that Winstead was able to play this role as the every person who we can connect to and share the experience with. She plays a very strong, resourceful character who has adjust to this horrible situation, and she made for a great lead performance. Now with Goodman, he steals the entire movie from two performances that are already strong enough on their own. His character comes off as the type that would be really cartoony and over-the-top if cast wrong, but Goodman is one of the best actors alive right now and this movie shows why. He's able to completely sell the audience on the mystery of his character and his performance plays a huge part in how you feel about him. You feel at ease in some scenes, and you feel terrified in others and Goodman nailed those aspects to a tee.
The thing that I must stress the most about this movie is that it's not a monster movie. It's no where near the same level of destruction and carnage that the first film was and I think a lot of people need to be aware of that when they see it. It's a very slow paced movie with a lot of emphasis on slowly building the tension between the characters. The type of moviegoer you classify yourself as will depend on whether or not you like that, and I personally loved how this movie was a slow burn through the majority of it. One of the writers of this movie was Damien Chazelle, director of my favorite movie of 2014, "Whiplash". That movie was full of great character tension and it translates very well into this movie. You feel this movie's psychological warfare gradually building up and it makes for a very Hitchcockian style of film-making, a style that benefits this movie fantastically.
This movie also did a very good job of giving you small clues as to what's really going on with Goodman's character and the supposed events that are taking place, but the movie doesn't spoon-feed you any major details and you're left to piece things together if you actually stop to think about stuff being said and done. A major component of this is Dan Trachtenberg's direction, it being extremely impressive for a directorial debut. He knows what it takes to make a very gripping, slow burn of a thriller, but he also did a really good job in dropping small clues throughout that foreshadow events in this movie, and maybe even stuff in the original "Cloverfield".
As for my one negative with this movie, it's basically the end of this movie, but it's also something of a mixed bag. When I first got out of the movie, I disliked the end and I wasn't sure of what it was trying to achieve, but the more I thought about it, the more I started to understand what was going on. I won't deny that the end does come off as rushed and I'm still not 100% sold on how it played out, but it's thankfully one of those things that can be appreciated if you give it more time to let it sink in. I can understand if people just end up hating the climax entirely, but I personally have some mixed, but still slightly positive thoughts on it.
In the end, "10 Cloverfield Lane" is a very suspenseful, gripping, and tense movie with great acting and a strong directorial debut from Dan Trachtenberg. It's a slow movie that plays off as a very claustrophobic, small scale film, but I think it worked as a contrast to the first film as well as a great way to tell the story in its own right. This isn't a monster movie and it's certainly not a fast paced action thriller, so don't walk into this movie expecting that. It's a psychological thriller that shows us a great example of well done tension and atmosphere lead by solid acting and directing.
Rating: Full Price!