10 Cloverfield Lane/4 Palm Trees
by Eduardo Victoria/[email protected]
When the world ends due to circumstances beyond human involvement, who will ultimately be our greatest enemy? Our inhuman attackers or ourselves? 10 Cloverfield Lane sets out to explore one possibility of a similar scenario. For a movie that runs only 113 minutes, the script is extremely economical and features an exploration about regret and abuse. The film stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr. and John Goodman.
Waking up after a freak car accident, Michelle (Winstead) finds herself in a subterranean bunker in rural Louisiana having been “rescued” by Howard (Goodman in a show-stealing performance), a doomsday-prepper who is sharing the space with Emmett, one of the men who helped him build it (Gallagher, Jr.). Having blacked out when the world was still at some state of normalcy, Michelle greatly distrusts Howard’s story of a chemical attack that has rendered the air above toxic. Though he is telling the truth, Michelle’s distrust of Howard begins to come to light as his secrets begin to come to light in the enclosed space.
What’s most brilliant about this go-round of Cloverfield is the “Twilight Zone” style spin on the story. For the majority of the movie, we question as to what is happening above ground and who is responsible, for which the characters have their share of theories, but what is most impressive is the subtext of regret, abuse, and redemption that exists within Michelle’s character. She shares a story in the film’s second act about letting her brother stand up for her and fight her battles. In her own life, when it finally came time to stand up to something she’d experienced, she stood by and did nothing. From the moment she wakes, she is thinking about how to escape and if the other two men can be trusted. Impressively, these traits carry through all the way into the final moments of the film- impressive for a Hollywood blockbuster of this nature.
Director Dan Trachtenberg is no lightweight when it comes to these heavy themes and dark explorations of humanity. Though it is his first feature film, his camera angles create claustrophobia, disorientation, and excellent exploration of the sets. The camera’s point-of-view puts us in an involved position once we enter the bunker, as if the audience was involved in the action, as opposed to an omnipresent one established in the film’s opening over head shots of bridges, roadways, and rivers.
Stealing the show is John Goodman in a downright frightening performance. Known for playing (more often than not) lovable, memorable guys, Goodman is brooding, threatening, and provides a guise where the viewer is conflicted. Is his story about a chemical attack true or is something far more sinister at play? Adding to the atmosphere is an incredible set design by Kellie Jo Tinney and Michelle Marchand, II. Every book, frame, and plate adds a strangely demented sense of home to a space created for surviving the ultimate disaster.
An amazing cast, incredible direction, and a great emotional arc for the lead character create a dense portrait of paranoia, distrust, and overcoming past demons. Adding to the density is composer Bear McCreary’s incredible score, which utilizes former child actor Craig Huxley’s blaster beam and an Indian Tambura. The ending may ultimately divide the audience, but as a first film from Dan Trachtenberg, 10 Cloverfield Lane is an exercise in suspense we didn’t know we wanted.
Rated PG-13. Now playing at Cinemark Downtown 10.