My Plot review: Recommended
Waking up from a car accident, 10 Cloverfield Lane finds a young woman trapped in the basement of a man who says he's saved her life from a chemical attack that has left the outside uninhabitable.
From the Bad Robot team, this ace little thriller may or may not be a direct sequel to 'Cloverfield' but it sure does improve on it in almost every way, and I say that as a big fan of the first film. First time director Dan Trachtenberg decides to focus more on high tension than the thrills and spills of its predecessor, teasing out wonderful performances from his cast and a tightness often missing from the big releases around this time of year.
I was a really big fan of Trachtenberg back when he was a host on the 'Totally Rad Show' a podcast that reviewed movies and games fronted by three geeks who wore their hearts on their sleeves. Trachtenberg had an endearing charm to him so when the show ended and he plunged head first into a film career, it would be hollow of me to say I wasn't pulling for him. Well he is 1/1 so far, demonstrating a steady hand and an eye for a great shot. The opening scenes alone demonstrate a willing to pay homage (I got a big 'Psycho' vibe) without becoming a facsimile of the original. He paces the event in the film so well, the 108 minute run time flying by and I can not wait to see what he does next. All of that praise and his direction wasn't even my favourite thing about the film.
John Goodman puts in a tour-de-force performances as Howard. We are so used to the affable, loving Goodman that he often replicates in the film that it is genuinely shocking and downright scary when he unleashes the fury. Goodman takes Howard through sympathy to funny to affable to terrifying so effortlessly, it's staggering he hasn't been cast in this kind of role before.
"His depiction of Howard is so far from cartoonish, so damn intense that I feel it won't get the plaudits that, say, a Hannibal Lector got."
Both Winstead and Gallagher Jr. are excellent foils for each other, both displaying a genuine warmth and companionship before the shit hits the fan (metaphorically and almost literally). Winstead benefits from where the film ends up, taking a performance more akin to something like 'Room' and ending up in full Twilight Zone mode, allowing her to display a range she doesn't get the credit for. It's 'Smashed' by way of 'Scott Pilgrim'.
I just wish the film was 7-8 minutes shorter.
It's a Bad Robot produced film, shrouded in secrecy for most of its existence so naturally, there is a huge twist that may or may not link it to 'Cloverfield'. I won't be spoiling that here but what I will say is that the idea was a lot of fun but it harmed the overall impact of the film by not ending at its reveal and instead growing into a big set piece that the film just did not need.
One mis-step does not prevent '10 Cloverfield Lane' from being an excellent little thriller and in Dan Trachtenberg, it has revealed a director to keep an eye on.
You have to love a surprise package.