Written By Jacob Chimilar (@sweetlows)
The original Cloverfield was released back in 2008, upon my initial watch I was mad because the found footage genre doesn't have to end in a tidy wrap up sequence that I'd come to expect. Re-watching it last night it was a genuinely interesting take on the monster movie. It's even more relevant now with the prevalence of smartphones allowing people to record things now more than ever. If this really did happen of course someone would try to film the whole thing, I'm sure lots would and a true Cloverfield 2 would utilize that style and have multiple sources to cover more and work as a commentary on how people react to disasters differently.
10 Cloverfield Lane is really associated to Cloverfield by name. its surprise release announcement just 2 months before release was one that in the day and age of the internet and virality could have it's message spread rapidly and reach everyone it needed to with much less marketing than usual. It is similar to the original Cloverfield when the first mention of it was in releasing a trailer in front of the original Transformers with all other knowledge of the project being kept under wraps. That however is really where the comparisons stop. This is not a movie about a first person experience of monsters attacking the city. It's about a woman who gets in an accident and brought to a fallout bunker in the middle of nowhere by a guy who thinks that something has gone wrong and they need to stay there until it all blows over. That's about all I'll say about this movie because that's all you really need to know.
Directed by first time feature film director Dan Trachtenberg of Totally Rad Show and short film “Portal: No Escape” fame, and written by Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken with input by Whiplash director Damien Chazelle, It's tense, brutal and old school in it's approach. Either locked down or panning smoothly around like a ghost, the camera silently observes and highlights the events and not the fact that there is someone holding a camera. Tried and true methods that make a good story shine. It's quite literally the opposite of the shaky cam craziness of Cloverfield, which worked in it's own way.
The sound design also really adds to the experience, Jeff Cannata, a co-host of Totally Rad Show, said to find a theatre with good sound., and that is absolutely true, hats off to the sound mixers and editors for putting together this tense soundscape, bringing this little bunker to life. On top of that comes a really top notch score by Bear McCreary who has worked on shows like The Walking Dead, BSG, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and as with any great collaboration each piece adds layers to the story and in this case ratchets up the tension significantly.
Having said that, where this film ultimately could fail is in its performances. This story essentially has three actors who must carry an entire movie set in one place and make it interesting. Thankfully the performances by the three leads, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr. and John Goodman are as good as you are likely to get. John Goodman is incredible as Howard, he gave me chills and made me laugh and smile. In the back of your mind you know “Hey that's John Goodman” but that I think sells it, you know he can be sweet and lovable so it's that much more alarming when he isn't. Mary and John Gallagher Jr. as Michelle and Emmett make for an interesting duo and foil to Howard and together make for an enaging trio worth spending your two hours with.
Given that this was Dan Trachtenberg's first movie, what more could he have asked for than to work with such talented actors? Then on top of that, to have someone like J.J. Abrams, who was at the time off working on Star Wars, as your producer? (There are a few little easter eggs I noticed in the movie related to things in the J.J.-verse). Then on top of that, to have the editor, Stefan Grube, who was also tasked with doing the editing for the Star Wars trailers editing your movie, it's just insane how good the people are working on it. Now you know you have talented and trusted people on your team, you have to focus on creating a great movie. One that would succeed or fail through word of mouth thanks to its sudden, but in its own way clever, marketing. As well as live up to the original Cloverfield. If this movie wasn't good, I don't think it would have been able to do such minimal marketing. You always have to work extra hard when you want to sell something people may not like. Thankfully it seems that everyone gelled just perfectly to make this movie a great one.
Filled with mystery, suspense and intrigue, Trachtenberg and friends have come together and created a wholly satisfying experience. If you are looking for a dark, tense time at the movies, be sure to stop by 10 Cloverfield Lane, they've got you covered.
Bonus: Dan Trachtenberg's Portal Short Film