- Have a preexisting inclination towards mysterious/psychological/horror/thriller movies -- however slight.
- Do not find out anything more than necessary about the plot beforehand. Don't even watch the trailer. Don't even read this review.
|Director Dan Trachtenberg jumps straight to level "expert" with his first feature film. And credit to the writers for a detailed and smart story and script.|
10 Cloverfield Lane was surprised upon fans with a trailer (and consequential announcement of its existence) a mere two months before the film's release. It is not a sequel of another J.J. Abrams -produced monster-thriller Cloverfield, but it does share a similar flavor and the same universe. Abrams called it a "spiritual successor." I saw and enjoyed the 2008 Cloverfield before watching this one, but it didn't have any effect either way on my understanding or enjoyment of this one.
10 Cloverfield Lane benefits greatly from being such a well-kept secret. The less you know going in the better effect it has, I promise. I knew next to nothing -- and almost wish I had known even less. The movie stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman and John Gallagher Jr. as three people who hide in an underground bunker from an undisclosed attack that has left the air toxic; but Michelle's only proof of this is the word of the two men with her, and she doesn't know if she can trust them or not.
|If this movie was an evil villain's master plan for world domination instead of a film, it would be unstoppable.|
The story uses mystery to its full advantage. Even before you get to the theater the questions and mind games have begun. Then it starts with a palpable sense of dreadful mystery, and the plot is continually building on top of itself from there. Everything -- literally everything -- is constantly increasing. Increasing tension, building urgency, deepening characters, adding question after question while giving out just the right amount of answers to keep you engaged and devouring the next thrilling moment, eyes glued to the screen, wracking your brain for answers but knowing full well you'll never figure it out before you're supposed to. Yet you're never left out of the loop, and every plot point is thought through with careful neatness, so everything makes perfect sense.
The story is so clean, so simplistic, and every element has a purpose. Every single element both serves to develop character and themes, and is necessary to the plot, all fitting together in the end with the satisfaction of a completed jigsaw puzzle. It's on such a small scale, spending practically all the film in one place, with three characters, and sometimes it edges closer to a drama than a horror/thriller flick. But it establishes itself so well, worming its way deep and permanently into our minds and even eventually our hearts (in true high-quality horror-hero fashion) that by the end it reaches a level of grand magnificence that cannot be topped even by the biggest, loudest superhero blockbuster.
|It thrilled me to my core.|
Speaking of loud, I loved the way volume was used to startle you out of the usually quiet tension. There was also an unexpected amount of comedy. Black comedy certainly, but genuinely funny. Good thing too -- without the release created by the humor I may have crumpled up into a tiny ball from suspense and the increasing tension. I also want to express my gratitude over this film's clean rating. It could have easily stepped into R-territory, but instead remained PG-13. And you can tell the only things that made it into the movie where things that enhanced the story and furthered the plot. Even violence was shown just enough to get the idea across. The singular dedication to this story is quite impressive, and paid off unarguably well.
The most commonly mentioned critique is that the last stage feels "tacked on" and doesn't fit with the rest of the movie. I feel the complete opposite. For me the endgame was the powerhouse play -- the moments where the impossibly extreme suspense actually pays off to its fullest potential, and the impactful conclusion is delivered with a deafening bang.
I'm giving this film five stars -- it earned every point of each one -- but it's interesting; this is a rare one-and-done five star movie. Most of thrill is held only it the first viewing. Once you see it there's no immediate need to go back in order to understand or pick up on a few more things that you originally missed. Soaking in every last drop the first time is practically guaranteed. But, even though I'm not currently planning my next viewing, it's only been a couple hours since I saw it as I write, and I'm feeling more and more that eventually I won't be able to resist trying to relive the awe-inducing experience of this movie's gripping and exhilarating ending again -- though I doubt it'll be as thoroughly affecting as it was the first time.
|I have seriously never, ever seen a film like this before. It's really sticking with me... Yeah, I'm gonna have to see it again.|
The performances by all three of the cast members were beautifully nuanced and fantastic. John Goodman was totally brilliant -- he's always good but reached a whole new level here -- and Mary Elizabeth Winstead impressed and won me over exactly as was planned with her resourceful and smart young heroine. Her character journey, to the story's pacing, to tone and technical aspects, right down to the smallest detail was perfect. Yes, truly perfect. Complete and flawless in its storytelling, it totally captivated me, and there isn't one thing I can think of to nit-pick. No tiny plot hole, or irking detail that I'd be happy to ignore. 10 Cloverfield Lane is immaculate, and magnificent. It thrills; it chills; and it confidently fulfills every last one of the mysteriously vague promises it has so cleverly implied are lurking within its dark, windowless walls.