Movie Review: “10 Cloverfield Lane” – The Art of Obscuration

Written by Matt Butler April 01, 2016

10-cloverfield-lane-image-1Remember back in December when The Force Awakens came out? A movie we all waited years to see, and when we did, we couldn’t talk about it. You know? Because we’re all decent human beings. I now find myself in an uncannily similar predicament with 10 Cloverfield Lane, a movie that nobody knew about till a month ago, but weirdly enough also involved J.J. Abrams. This isn’t just about a high-quality film, this is about an experience that demands as little prior knowledge as possible. Guess that’s the Abrams touch right there. So, because I’m nice, here’s a spoiler warning. My suggestion though is if you haven’t seen the movie already, go see it, then come back. My opinions aren’t going anywhere.

“Something’s coming.”

10 Cloverfield Lane is all about obscuration. Even though the film shares its title with the 2010 found-footage thriller -the title sequence leaves nothing to the imagination- this is no sequel. So, much like when Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) finds herself chained to a post in a windowless concrete cell, we are thrown into the movie without much context. The film’s sparing relays of information display a conscious and strategic method of exposition, a need-to-know basis, if you will.  Which is perfect, because every time a question is answered, another one pops up, and even better, the questions are worth asking. Are there monsters outside? Is everybody else dead? Are we safe in this bunker? Is John Goodman crazy?

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Okay, that last one isn’t hard to answer. Yes, John Goodman (Howard) is crazy, unless of course you can bring me that super cool, totally sane friend of yours that’s spent decades of their life assembling a bomb shelter. It’s more a question of what kind of crazy. Overprotective crazy? Aggressive crazy? Disturbed crazy? Here’s the thing about crazy people, they don’t know they’re crazy (that’s what makes them crazy), and John Goodman hits just the right amount of crazy that it’s totally believable.

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“Crazy is building your ark after the flood has already come.”

It’s also nice to see John Gallagher Jr. again after Short Term 12 to play the amiable best friend role he was clearly destined for. I’m not sure what it is about him, he just seems like the kind of guy you could smoke a joint with and share embarrassing stories with. That may be the only character type I’ve seen him do, but hey, you play to your strengths. Here’s hoping this movie helps his popularity get some much-deserved traction.

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The most compelling part of 10 Cloverfield Lane though is the arc of its lead heroine, Michelle, an Ellen Ripley in her own right. From the start of the film, Michelle is running away from her problems, but in the end she makes the willful decision to face them head on. The exhilaration felt by her final confrontation with the alien mothership is a result of spending the entire movie with her, picking up information at the same pace as her, and feeling her same anxieties.

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“I’m sorry, but no one’s looking for you.”

One has to wonder how this movie would have faired without its taped-on associated to Cloverfield. The film was originally its own thing, separate from the… Cloververse? So, is tying it with Cloverfield really just a manipulative marketing tactic? Probably. I doubt this movie would have had half its limited exposure if it wasn’t marketed this way. I’m just glad it was made and happy to know it’s being appreciated by a wide audience. This is one of the few films I’ve seen this year that’s evoked in me a definite emotional response. I left the theatre like I just got off a rollercoaster.

My Rating: 9/10

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About Matt Butler

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is a strapping young English Major with a fiery passion for the art of cinematic storytelling. He likes long walks on the beach and knows the proper use of 'your' and 'you're'. (Example: I hope YOU'RE having a wonderful time browsing our site, and I hope you enjoy YOUR time reading my film reviews. I wrote them just for you.)

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