Midway through 10 Cloverfield Lane, John Goodman’s Howard starts dancing along to music blaring from a jukebox, breaking the tension just enough to entertain you but not enough to take you out of the moment; in fact, it further envelops you in its grasp. Every humorous moment in this movie works in a similar manner, drawing on comedy to reveal even more sinister layers underneath. Throughout, the writers and actors have a rock solid handle on these shifts in tone, mood, character, and genre, and what results are genuinely unnerving and unexpected moments that add beautifully to the overall experience. Plot twists weave in and out of motivations and backstories with remarkably few hiccups, and the writers–featuring new Tension Master Damien Chazelle–demonstrate a knack for building a very specific atmosphere.
Key aspects of that atmosphere-building also include the impeccable sound design, the chilling Bear McCreary score, the brilliant acting–seriously fantastic across the board–and the Trachtenberg-Cutter camera work. The shooting style for 10 Cloverfield Lane is more steady than the original, using a small space to convey intimacy and uncertainty while also aggressively hinting at something larger outside. When all hell breaks loose near the end–in perhaps the most unsurprising development of the movie, given its title–it still feels like a very controlled madness that develops organically from the setup. I don’t think it’s as impactful as what precedes it, but it’s appropriate not only in the context of the Cloverfield name, but also in the context of the plot. It’s unabashed and entertaining and really quite silly, but it’s also just so damn fun.
SPOILER SECTION/OTHER THOUGHTS:
WARNING: SPOILERS FOLLOW. DO NOT READ UNLESS YOU’VE SEEN THE FILM.
-The bunker itself is utilized extremely well, and I feel like the outside world is better handled from indoors. Nevertheless, I love the resolution for its idea more so than for its execution (still not weak enough to detract from how much I liked the first 75-80%). Howard’s a crazy guy who also happens to be right all along, and it’s a nice way to conclude this particular story because it plays with our expectations of him being either one or the other. I also really like Michelle’s reaction to seeing the alien. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is wonderful in this movie.
-Emmett….I did not see that coming at all.
-That “little woman”/”little princess” scene is John Goodman’s best moment in the movie, and he has a hell of a lot of great scenes. It’s a funny moment, but funny in an extremely chilling manner. One of the most well constructed scenes of the film.
-Very well done moment: the opening credits intercut with the crash.
Photo credits: Bad Robot, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Paramount