10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
Monsters come in many forms
Did you enjoy that found footage giant-monster/alien thing movie Cloverfield? You did? Oh, wait, you said you didn't? Well, I'm not gonna call you crazy, because I can find reasons to not like it just as I can find reasons to enjoy it, but regardless I was pretty shocked to hear that there was a pseudo-sequel coming out when I heard the news. I mean, sure, I enjoyed the first, but most people seemed to be distinctly in the "nah, pass" crowd. Either way, color me interested and off we go to the prepper dream of 10 Cloverfield Lane.
This is going to be an interesting one. Once again, I find myself in a situation where I can't find what to talk about - not because there is nothing to talk about, but rather it's hard not to do it without just throwing massive spoilers about it. Indeed, the part I'd like to talk about the most falls at the end of the movie - which would be a spoiler anyways. Now, if it were an older movie that everyone has already seen before, I wouldn't feel so bad about it, but this one is fresh - hot off my Netflix DVD press. So I guess we'll just have to settle for a bit of early-movie layout and some teasing intrigue for the plot section and call that even.
A woman is packing her things in an apartment. The entire scene is without audio besides the soundtrack, leaving things to the imagination as she makes a phone call and we get the impression of the mood for the situation. One might say the mood is rather sad, and would probably be accurate, as when the camera changes to show her taking her stuff-filled box out the door, we pan over to a ring and set of spare keys left behind on the dresser. A driving montage occurs as the woman scoots out of town, heading off to who-knows where. As she drives, she gets a phone call from the man she's left behind and we learn that there was some sort of fight that caused the breakup to occur. She hangs up without saying a word, and when the next time the phone rings never gets the chance to answer as she is engaged in a car accident and her vehicle is tossed from the road.
When she wakes up, she seems to be in a room one would expect from one of those torture-porn movies, all empty besides her mattress and I.V. with some of her clothes piled in the corner. When she checks under her blanket, she finds her knee in a brace, and the brace handcuffed to a pipe in the wall. As any sane person would do, she panics, removing the needle from her arm and tossing the bag from her I.V. to use it as a makeshift arm and get to her phone. It's all for naught however, as anyone with a cement-walled basement will tell you there's never a good phone signal down there. Her theorized captor enters the room through a heavy-duty metal door, explaining how he's her savior and leaving some food behind with the key to her cuffs and a pair of crutches. After he leaves, she uses the key to sharpen up her crutch bottom, preparing to stab her way out.
Her plan doesn't go as planned however, and after getting tired of waiting she starts a fire to get the man back. It works, but she ends up getting drugged unconscious when her assault plan fails. When she awakes, the man returns to explain her situation to her. See, things aren't right out there in the world anymore. There was an attack of some sort - Russians, aliens, nukes - and it's not safe to go out there. In fact, it's assumed that everyone else is dead, so the safest thing to do is stay in the fallout shelter they are currently in until the fallout goes away. Their conversation is interrupted when a third person is made apparent from a loud crash outside her room. Not everything is as it might seem in the little bunker, however, and it seems our lady isn't content with staying in there - constantly scheming to make her escape.
This leans heavy into the drama category. I mean, really, it has to - there's only a cast of three characters for the vast majority of this movie. It can get a little... claustrophobic. Given this fact, the mystery about it all - what's going on, whose got secrets, where the missing puzzle pieces have gone - helps to provide a lot of the tensions about the flick. John Goodman does a phenomenal job in his role - equal parts creepy as well as level-headed doomsday prepper, but still having some mysterious quirks. Winstead is generally pretty level on the acting side as well, although there are a few scenes that feel a little less than spectacular, although it's debatable if that's the script overpower acting in those scenes. Gallagher Jr does a decent job of making his character likeable as well, even if he seems a little overshadowed by his co-actors in spotlight action.
Usually the setting would be a character of it's own in this sort of thing, however in here it's a bit different. The setting itself doesn't really have character in the sense where it feels as though another actor on the plate, but does a good job of putting forth a claustrophobic feel one would expect from an underground dressed up fallout shelter. There's a visible flow to the rooms (for the most part), and outside of a few scenes it's pretty easy to not feel lost at all as the scene travels from room to room. Even when well lit, it's a pretty moody place - but it leaves most the tension to come from these three characters who don't really know each other that much interacting.
Audio is well balanced, which is good considering the relative amount of nothing as far as action goes. It sometimes let's scenes talk for themselves - such as the clenching and loosening of Goodman's fists in the dinner scene or the entire opening reveal of Winstead. Other times, the story comes from the inflection in the actors voices - it's overall spread out across multiple aspects and details, and works pretty well as a mystery in that sense. It certainly feels more appropriate to call this a slow burn than anything else. There are some scenes where things seem off with the camera-work, such as the bunker introduction camera pan that seemed oddly to skip as it went, almost as though my DVD was having issues or something (although it didn't occur anywhere else). There's also a bit of shaky came here and there, and for the most part I'm never really a fan of that.
It's overall a very different movie than the first Cloverfield movie. On the one hand, this can be quite a good thing - as if you didn't like the first you can still potentially enjoy this one. Likewise, you can actually get away with not having even seen the other movie and watch this one, as it's pretty well a totally self-contained story with only slight calls to it's predecessor. Acting is pretty good, as one would expect from a drama, and as long as you can handle slow burns with a tweak of mystery twists and intrigue sprinkled about you'll probably have fun with this one.