'10 Cloverfield Lane' may be the best-kept secret of 2016 as well as the year's most reliable thriller.
Piggybacking on the found footage film which failed to live up to its pre-release hype, “10 Cloverfield Lane” appeared out of thin air last month via its spooky trailer.
Could the actual film start a new franchise, albeit one which thankfully junks the found footage gimmick?
Yes, even if “Lane’s” film’s third act twist will induce whiplash. Movie geeks won’t care. They’ll busy themselves connecting random dots between “Cloverfield” and this sorta-kinda sequel. Everyone else will relish a rare original with style to spare.
Maybe that Hollywood imagination drain has been overstated.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Michelle, a woman who wakes up after a car accident in the home of of the lumbering Howard (John Goodman). She’s chained to a bed in his basement. Otherwise, she appears to be in good health.
Howard pulled her from the car wreck but won’t let her leave the house. It’s for her own good, he says. The land around the property has been hit by … something awful, and it’s no longer safe to step outside.
Good thing Howard’s basement has more than enough supplies. And they’ll have to share them with Emmett, (John Gallagher, Jr.) who works for Howard and is happy to have safe shelter.
“10 Cloverfield Lane” packs a claustrophobic premise, but it won’t let it do the heavy lifting. The trapped trio connects in fascinating, relatable ways. Goodman’s character is a sad sack, but his survival instincts are oddly endearing. He feels a paternal pull toward Michelle, even if she suspects he isn’t telling her the whole truth.
Emmett is no stranger to failure. So he finds comfort in bonding with both Michelle and Howard
FAST FACT: ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ producer J.J. Abrams counts “The Twilight Zone” as one of his favorite TV shows. He marveled at how Rod Serling and co. could sneak in social messages into its otherworldly tales.
First-time director Dan Trachtenberg keeps the tension at a low but discernible boil. Goodman’s bravura turn makes much of that possible. The burly actor is always a pleasure to watch. Here, he brings both an asocial wariness to Howard along with an intensity that makes even quiet scenes hum.
Genre movies rarely get the Academy’s attention. It’s not far-fetched to imagine a more just Oscar process giving Goodman’s work a serious look.
“10 Cloverfield Lane” is full of surprises, mostly ones that are well thought out and organic to the story. Michelle and Emmett refuse to give in to their surroundings, and their mental chess match against Howard plays out in small but steady doses.
Howard’s generosity has strict limits, mind you.
“Lane” assembles a few convenient reveals that a tighter script might have massaged. Still, these moments are inserted deftly into the narrative, arriving just in time to goose the thrills or set up the next nerve jangling confrontation.
Just how does “10 Cloverfield Lane” tie into the 2008 movie? At first blush the name check feels more like a gimmick than a narrative thread. Safe to say Team Abrams has designs on expanding this suddenly viable Clover-verse.
Based on “10 Cloverfield Lane,” audiences may be in for a real treat.