2016 is off to a surprisingly awesome start, continuing the quality bounty we reaped at the end of last year. Two months ago, I didn’t know 10 Cloverfield Lane existed, and I would have thought the idea of a sequel (though it’s more of a spin-off) would be eye-rollingly stupid. Having just experienced it, the best analogy I can give you as to what 10 Cloverfield Lane is without ruining it, is to say it’s the closest to a big-screen classic Twilight Zone episode I’ve ever seen. It’s fantastic. Not only is it light-years better than Cloverfield (which I liked), it makes me happy that Cloverfield is apparently now a franchise. I can’t wait for the next installment.
Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane could not be more different. It’s more accurate to call them as movies in the same universe than it is to call the latter a sequel to the former (though they are definitely connected). I’m going to say almost nothing about the plot of the film. The less you know going into this movie, the more fun you’ll have.
The film takes place in a fallout shelter-like bunker owned by Howard (John Goodman) and inhabited by him, his neighbor Emmett (Josh Edwards Jr.) and Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Michelle wakes in the bunker after a car accident and is told by Howard that there’s been an attack, the air outside is fatal, and they have to stay in the fallout shelter for at least a year or two for their own protection.
I know it’s March, and the film will be long forgotten by the Academy in nine months, but John Goodman delivers the performance of his career and quite seriously deserves an Oscar nomination. You never quite know if what Howard is say is the truth, a lie or some combination of the two. Winstead and Edwards are also fantastic, but the other huge star here is the script. Pay attention to every detail, everything said, every item, every action. The smallest throwaway things end up being hugely significant as events in the bunker unfold. What’s obvious from the beginning is something is clearly not quite right. What that something is, constantly shifts in the audience’s mind.
The film builds tension brilliantly, jarring you out of any sense of complacency you may develop with several fantastic twists. As a movie fan and critic, I spend a lot of time complaining with others about how unoriginal films are now. Everything is cookie-cutter, boiler plate rehash. This is a film that needs to be supported. It’s smart, it’s entertaining, it manages to take a monster film from eight years ago and turn it into the opening chapter in an anthology film franchise that offers the possibility of endless creativity in this weird world. It’s the kind of movie that rewards the viewer for their attention, and makes you glad you saw it in the theater.