’10 Cloverfield Lane’ is a taut thriller from start to finish

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courtesy of collider.com

Howard threatens Emmett and Michelle, who seem to be up to no good.

Alec Badalian, Magazine Editor

Very rarely is a film released into theaters nowadays when audiences almost know nothing about it. Thanks to the Internet, it’s almost impossible not to know everything about a film before going into it, whether it be major plot points or certain surprises. The last film that managed to cover itself in thick secrecy was 2008’s Cloverfield, a highly entertaining found-footage sci-fi adventure. Following in that tradition, its semi-sequel 10 Cloverfield Lane has managed to do the same and ends up working immensely in its benefit.

In theaters on March 11 from Paramount, this “blood relative” to Cloverfield was announced to be released a mere two months ago, while most major movies today are announced years before their release. Thankfully, 10 Cloverfield Lane has kept itself under the radar, keeping all of its surprises kept under lock and key. The plot begins when Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) finds herself chained to a pipe in an underground bunker after she has just survived a car accident. In that bunker is Howard (John Goodman), a crazy apocalypse theorist who is taking care of her claims that the air above them is contaminated, keeping her trapped with him. Also in the bunker is a stranger named Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) who is there for undisclosed reasons.

As time goes on, tensions rise between everyone and no one can trust anyone, which challenges everything each character once thought was true. That’s about all that can be said without ruining any of the surprises at hand, and that’s how this film should be seen — by knowing as little as possible about it.

The three main performances are all outstanding and cast to perfection, with each actor effortlessly embodying their characters in the most convincing of ways. Winstead is terrific here as she conquers a very difficult role through not only nailing her dialogue but also the variety of complex facial expressions. Goodman and Gallagher Jr. also make each of their characters their own, with both of them providing both extremely intense moments and also some great moments of comic relief.

First-time feature director Dan Trachtenberg directs every sequence with a boisterous confidence as he effectively builds tension through his sharp camera angles and progression of the story. The score from Bear McCreary, who frequently scores episodes of The Walking Dead, is also magnificent, with each composition bombastically enhancing every moment of suspense.

Now, it wouldn’t be much of a spoiler to say that there definitely are elements of science-fiction at times, based on the fact that the first one was sci-fi and that it has been marketed as this kind of genre. Talking about how it’s implemented into the film will begin to ruin some of the twists it has in store, but one thing that can be said is that this aspect of the film is by far its weakest. Though it isn’t necessarily bad, the transition from it being a very basic thriller to a crazy sci-fi is a bit uneasy. The film works better when it’s confined in the bunker and tends to lose some of its momentum when the characters attempt to venture away from it. Nevertheless, it doesn’t diminish how tight, fast and exciting this film is.

Those expecting a straight up sequel to Cloverfield may be disappointed, as the overall style this film is quite different and much less small-scale. However, as a standalone thriller that takes place in the Cloverfield universe, 10 Cloverfield Lane delivers huge suspense and huge surprises, ultimately being marvelously successful installment in this potential saga.