Curbstomping Cinema: 10 Cloverfield Lane

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Curbstomping Cinema: 10 Cloverfield Lane

Postby KleinerKiller » Mon Mar 28, 2016 5:09 pm

Basic Summary: A young woman is abducted by a mysterious old man and locked in his bunker while he claims the outside world is ending.
Genre: Thriller.
Directed by: Dan Trachtenberg
Written by: Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken.
Starring: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr.

For the unaware, 10 Cloverfield Lane follows Michelle, a young, resourceful fashion artist whose car is run off the road while she flees a rocky relationship. Waking up in a vast underground bomb shelter, Michelle is introduced to its owner Howard and fellow guest Emmett. Claiming that the country has been attacked and that the air outside is too toxic for life to survive, Howard forces Michelle and Emmett to live under his ironclad set of rules. And, although Michelle is ostensibly safe, she soon finds herself forced to question whether death would be worth escaping Howard’s clutches…


I was looking forward to this movie with cautiously bated breath since its shocking announcement in January. I have more love for the original Cloverfield than a lot of people seem to, but I recognize that it’s a heavily flawed film that alienates audiences with its relatively unremarkable characters, unsatisfying resolution, and above all else, camerawork so jittery it easily induces nausea and headaches in some.

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Pictured: Cloverfield's star cuts filming to help resuscitate a fainted cameraman.

10 Cloverfield Lane is a different beast altogether: a traditionally shot, slow-burning, isolated character thriller. But do these changes make for a movie even Cloverfield haters can enjoy?

Let’s begin with the story. By nature, a thriller can’t function to any degree if the plot is shit; this plot is decidedly not. It’s expertly written and maintains a gripping pace and sense of suspense from the cryptic, ominous opening moments to the equally foreboding final shots. Every time the situation feels like it’s calming, the tension explodes, be it in the form of a disturbing new discovery by our protagonists or a violent altercation that rarely ends with the status quo in place. I was pleased to see the “Michelle glasses Howard and breaks for the door” scenario from the trailers arrive within the first act; it being the most direct form of physical conflict between Michelle and Howard depicted in the advertising, the scene’s arrival and surprising resolution leaves the door open for ever more brilliant thrills, chills, and even a few tearjerkers.

Through it all, the question of what exactly is going in the outside world that made Howard kidnap Michelle lingers in your mind. Has the US suffered a nationwide chemical attack, as Howard postulates initially? Is it an alien invasion? Is it another giant monster, of the same species or otherwise? Is it something else entirely, or is it nothing at all? Plenty of evidence springs up for a lot of theories, and it takes a long time to get any definitive answers. One minute you’ll be dead set on the idea that Howard is a tinfoil hat psychopath needlessly keeping two innocent people hostage, the next minute it seems indisputable that everything he says is true, and the next you’ll be going back on that notion, crafting a new one of your own, or sticking with it while gauging whether they would just be better off dealing with the surface threat than locked in with Howard. And so on and so forth.

The finale is a bit of a mixed bag for me, but not in a significant enough way to seriously detract from my enjoyment. The first half of the climactic scenes provide some of the most knuckle-whitening, adrenaline-pumping action since the finale of The Revenant (albeit not quite as nihilistically grotesque), and my eyes were glued to the screen throughout. It’s a perfect cap on the central character dynamics. The scenes following it, though, are dragged out just a bit too long. They make their point quickly and are very cool in concept, but what’s initially an open-armed welcome is worn out all too soon, leaving the high-octane set piece where the majority of the budget was clearly spent an unexpectedly dull affair. Nevertheless, the ending provides an exciting window into the possibility of further films in the Cloverfield franchise; after this, I am completely open to the idea.

I didn’t expect to love the three leads across the board as much as I did, but the small cast of characters the film follows are breathtaking in both development and performance.

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Michelle is one of the strongest female leads in a mainstream Hollywood film I’ve seen in a while, and an excellent lead period. She solves the toughest problems efficiently with her intellect, drive, and boundless resourcefulness, but she’s far from overpowered and her survival is never an absolute certainty. She’s a sweet and caring person who’s easy to instantly root for, but as a human being, she has clear and present flaws that continuously play into the narrative. She holds up her half of the cat-and-mouse game remarkably well.

There’s also a refreshing lack of a tacked-on “girl power” message to her conflict with Howard; it would have been easy to take a movie about a young woman being held captive by a creepy older man and wring stock feminist crowd-pleasers out of it, but while there are some subtle and tactfully presented themes of abuse, at its core it’s just a powder-keg situation with two intelligent people butting heads with each other, and that’s how it should be treated.

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Emmett is a wild card going in. He’s featured the least in the advertising, mostly playing a background role while the dynamic between Michelle and Howard has been emphasized. Don’t let his underexposure fool you. An optimistic gentleman who believes in the safety Howard provides, he’s as much a protagonist in his own right as Michelle, with his own backstory, set of quirks and flaws, and compelling arc that has repercussions for the other two characters. John Gallagher Jr.’s performance is a highlight of the film, and his great chemistry with Winstead and Goodman allows him to carry many of the film’s funnier moments on his shoulders.

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However, as most reviews will echo, it’s John Goodman’s Howard that steals the show without question. From his introduction, you know he’s the antagonist in the conflict and you’re predisposed toward judging him harshly, especially when he starts spouting off lunacy about nuclear attacks and superweapon-driven invasions by an ever-changing enemy. However, the film derives much of its suspense from keeping you guessing as to whether he’s telling the truth or not, and to what degree you should trust him. He’s certainly got unexpected layers and charming aspects. He’s not always a creepy asshole and is able to put on a friendly face every so often, and Goodman’s natural charisma plays into Howard’s authoritarian role in a way that occasionally makes him come off almost trustworthy.

Whether he’s right about his justifications and puts on a good face, though, doesn’t change his actions: he’s an endlessly creepy ticking time bomb ready to explode at any moment, and it never ends happily when he does. The moments when the kindly old smile just drops from his face in a heartbeat usually lead up to the film’s most unforgettable scenes. This man is unpredictable, and that’s the best thing a thriller antagonist can be.

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The cinematography deserves praise, too. Even leaving out the previous film’s found footage conceit, the camerawork mostly eschews any sort of shaky-cam in favor of still, precise shots. Whether Michelle is in a small side room or the open common area, every stretch of the bunker is made to feel stiflingly claustrophobic, and Howard looms threateningly over Michelle and Emmett in every frame he’s in. The intense situations, including the title credits sequence that jolted half the audience out of their seats in my theater, are framed just so to make you feel as trapped and helpless as Michelle and Emmett often find themselves.

But very few movies are perfect, and I would be lying if I said there wasn’t one major thing in 10 Cloverfield Lane that disappointed me. Unfortunately, I can’t go into any specifics here, as the film is meant to be experienced as a mystery box for you to open on your own, so even hinting at what let me down would be a massive spoiler (particularly as it has to do with some late-story revelations). If need be, I’ll post the complaint below this review in spoiler tags.

My ambiguous complaint and the dragging nature of the climax aside, 10 Cloverfield Lane is among the best movies I’ve seen in the year thus far. If you like confined thrillers or stories driven by a small cast of highly developed and interesting characters, loved the previous Cloverfield movie, or are just the slightest bit curious what all of the mysterious buzz is about, I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Rating: Delicious As A Fresh Cup of Slusho!
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Re: Curbstomping Cinema: 10 Cloverfield Lane

Postby 52xMax » Mon Mar 28, 2016 11:44 pm

The original Cloverfield is vastly overrated, not to mention it made me queasy with all that handicam pov, but this one actually looks interesting, like the kind of thriller I enjoy. Definitely checking it out when it comes near me.
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Re: Curbstomping Cinema: 10 Cloverfield Lane

Postby Jack Road » Tue Mar 29, 2016 12:46 am

In response to below. Listen. If I post on a thread about a movie, it means I watched the movie. It means what I am posting contains spoilers. I am going to try to always remember to post it as a spoiler, but listen. If you click on anything about a movie, it is not the authors fault if you read something you didn't know. I accept that spoilers are bad in general discussion. But this is a thread that is a review of a movie. As an author, I will try to protect, but do not accept the responsibility towards protecting people that have not seen it from spoilers.

Spoiler: show
How amazing is John Goodman though? Man is in his sixties and deer god he is just brilliant.

I almost felt like I was watching two different movies cut and pasted together. The first, a tense thriller about a possibly delusional man holding two people semi-captive in his underground bunker. And another movie about some actually efficient (for a change) aliens.

I mean, as a man who respects efficiency of action in fictional characters, somewhat above morality, or other humans, these aliens are fucking good at their jobs. I hope they get commendations when they go back to wherever they came from.

From what I can tell from the last film and this one, the entire arsenal of the aliens is biological. They sent down these massive entities in all the major cities and wiped them off the map. Little creatures that were on the big creature helped wipe out individual humans. Then they move through the countryside with poisonous gasses and the same individual creatures.

Basic thought would suggest that the actual aliens are wanting earth as real estate. I doubt we have seen the actual aliens yet, because the fact that they don't just cover everything in poison gas all the time, and that they most likely want earth as real estate would heavily suggest that they breathe our air. Also, the poison gas seems to only really target humans. Aliens seem to only want to take out humans. Birds are chirping, ect.

But when a human emerges from a not very well concealed bunker, they are on top of that situation as fast as shit. So to me that says that they are not scouring the ground yet. No ground combat has happened yet. Because otherwise they would have very quickly have found that bunker. Like I said, it was not at all well concealed.

To me that would indicate that the main force of the aliens is still in space operating as satellites. They took out all the major population and communication nexuses. They gassed up and down the countryside. That eliminates most of humans. Now the satellites are picking up data on the remaining humans, but they are still doing crowd herding and control instead of just one on one hunting them. They are probably getting the humans to regroup, as the humans are doing, and then they will attack wholesale again. Only then will the main force of actual aliens come down.

I mean, that is just what it seems like, but even if that is only partially true, that is a pretty fucking solid plan. Mad respect for the aliens. But John Goodman still steals the show. From this review, I think sums it up. I like the interpretation, though I wouldn't go so far as to subscribe to it.

10 Cloverfield Lane is fundamentally about domestic abuse. Howard is a classic abuser, to such a degree that his actions run down a straight checklist of common tactics and warning signs. From his first moments with Michelle, he’s more interested in controlling her than comforting her. He has no empathy for her, or understanding of what’s going on in her head. He threatens her with violence when she disobeys his arbitrary rules, then seems baffled a moment later about why she’s upset. He’s jealous and volatile. He terrifies her, then blames her for hurting his feelings by not showing him enough gratitude and respect. He isolates her from her friends and family, both physically, by locking her into the bunker, and emotionally, by repeatedly claiming they’re all dead and there’s no way to even attempt to contact them. …

When Michelle escapes the bunker and finds a new threat waiting, this is partially an extension of the abuse metaphor. For victims of domestic abuse, just getting out of the house doesn’t immediately solve all their problems. For the metaphor to stay sound, 10 Cloverfield Lane needs to acknowledge that finding the courage to leave an abuser doesn’t guarantee a happily-ever-after. For a moment, when Michelle first removes her makeshift gas mask and learns that Howard was wrong about the poisonous air, it seems like the movie might end on a note of relief, and the promise that her problems are over. But that would be facile, and would also mean that Michelle had been in a standard slasher movie, where arbitrarily bad things happen to random people, and nothing much is learned. And that wouldn’t be in keeping with the movie’s actual arc, which is all about the way Michelle comes to terms with her abuse. Michelle’s problems didn’t start with Howard, and they don’t end with him. They aren’t imaginary, like the toxic threat, and they aren’t just part of some vague general calamity. They’re specific and personal, and they require a specific, personal catharsis. And that’s the primary reason the big, direct confrontation is necessary in the final act.


http://www.theverge.com/2016/3/17/11255 ... g-backlash
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Last edited by Jack Road on Tue Mar 29, 2016 4:44 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Curbstomping Cinema: 10 Cloverfield Lane

Postby KleinerKiller » Tue Mar 29, 2016 3:16 am

First off, and this actually connects to my singular complaint,

Spoiler: show
the aliens aren't connected to the original monster. And this has been confirmed by the staff: the two movies take place in different timelines. There's no connection to the original movie: the Cloverfield franchise has become an anthology series revolving around a theme of taking worn-out genres -- giant monster movies in the original and alien invasions in this one -- and turning them on their heads with unique new takes.

And while I do like most of that idea, I was very disappointed that there wasn't a connection after the marketing had been built around a possible one.


And second, considering that gives away the whole ending of the movie, you really might want to put it in spoiler tags, man.

EDIT:

Jack Road wrote:In response to below. Listen. If I post on a thread about a movie, it means I watched the movie. It means what I am posting contains spoilers. I am going to try to always remember to post it as a spoiler, but listen. If you click on anything about a movie, it is not the authors fault if you read something you didn't know. I accept that spoilers are bad in general discussion. But this is a thread that is a review of a movie. As an author, I will try to protect, but do not accept the responsibility towards protecting people that have not seen it from spoilers.


The movie is barely half a month old and my review doesn't contain any spoilers in its text. Reviews in general are customarily kept light on spoilers unless stated otherwise, since part of the purpose is to inform people who haven't seen it yet on whether it's right for them. The Curbstomping Cinema column and any other assorted reviews I write will always be kept as spoiler-free as possible as a personal policy, and I'd just appreciate it if people could follow the usual spoiler discussion protocol in its comments. It's obviously perfectly fine to discuss spoilers (I encourage it, even), but especially since this is the sort of movie that it is, tags are nice.

With that in mind, Jack, thank you for putting up the tags. *awkward fist bump*
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Re: Curbstomping Cinema: 10 Cloverfield Lane

Postby Dr. Ambiguous » Tue Mar 29, 2016 12:59 pm

KleinerKiller wrote:And second, considering that gives away the whole ending of the movie, you really might want to put it in spoiler tags, man.

EDIT:

Jack Road wrote:In response to below. Listen. If I post on a thread about a movie, it means I watched the movie. It means what I am posting contains spoilers. I am going to try to always remember to post it as a spoiler, but listen. If you click on anything about a movie, it is not the authors fault if you read something you didn't know. I accept that spoilers are bad in general discussion. But this is a thread that is a review of a movie. As an author, I will try to protect, but do not accept the responsibility towards protecting people that have not seen it from spoilers.


The movie is barely half a month old and my review doesn't contain any spoilers in its text. Reviews in general are customarily kept light on spoilers unless stated otherwise, since part of the purpose is to inform people who haven't seen it yet on whether it's right for them. The Curbstomping Cinema column and any other assorted reviews I write will always be kept as spoiler-free as possible as a personal policy, and I'd just appreciate it if people could follow the usual spoiler discussion protocol in its comments. It's obviously perfectly fine to discuss spoilers (I encourage it, even), but especially since this is the sort of movie that it is, tags are nice.

With that in mind, Jack, thank you for putting up the tags. *awkward fist bump*

Not to harp on you personally Jack, since you did add in the spoiler tags, but TCS site policy (as per the etiquette guide) is to use spoiler tags, and to label what they're for (if not implicit from the thread, such as a movie review. For tv shows, note which episode it is). Like Kleiner mentioned, this review is very light on spoilers, only what's needed to talk about the movie; and one of the main purposes of reviews is to help people determine if it's something they want to spend their time on. For that matter all the reviews we've run (with one exception) have been spoiler free, or very light spoilers. I'll echo him in that I encourage people to discuss things that are spoilers, just use the spoiler tag. Again, this isn't aimed at just you Jack, it's more a general point for everyone.

Anyway, well written review. I haven't actually seen the first Cloverfield movie yet, so I'm unsure if I want to watch this one in theaters without first doing so (and I won't have time to rent it before then), but I do want to check it out at some point at least.
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Re: Curbstomping Cinema: 10 Cloverfield Lane

Postby Ceiling_Squid » Sun Apr 03, 2016 6:26 pm

52xMax wrote:The original Cloverfield is vastly overrated, not to mention it made me queasy with all that handicam pov, but this one actually looks interesting, like the kind of thriller I enjoy. Definitely checking it out when it comes near me.


I think my big problem with Cloverfield is that all the raving about it came from people who followed the ARG religiously.

I came into that movie blind, because someone else wanted to see it. Absolutely hated it. Didn't care about the characters as-written or acted, unrealistic shakycam gave me nausea, monster was a letdown, the whole nine yards.

If it requires a heap of extraneous marketing material to be "good", maybe it doesn't exactly live up to the hype.

All that said, 10 Cloverfield Lane does look like something I might want to see. But the Cloverfield connection is less of a draw to me and more of a warning flag.
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Re: Curbstomping Cinema: 10 Cloverfield Lane

Postby A Combustible Lemon » Tue May 02, 2017 12:41 am

edit: forgot all the spoiler tag stuff.
Spoiler: show
OK I just watched this and the last 10 minutes blew my mind for a reason I haven't seen mentioned here yet. THIS IS THE BAD ROBOT HALF LIFE MOVIE THAT JJ HAS BEEN SITTING ON FOR THE LAST 5-10 YEARS. I don't care if it's got the half life branding or even actually belongs to the half life franchise. It literally does not matter. But back around 2013, Bad Robot started getting really into a relationship with Valve, they got rights to a new Portal/Half-Life movie, they worked on passtime.
Basically, it was going to happen at some point. Now they haven't talked about it for a long time so it's definitely on standby, but the intention was there.

Now we get to the Clover universe. Whiiiiiiiiich started with an entirely different concept, Clover being a godzilla type attack, indicating that shit was about to happen that humanity wasn't prepared for. Pretty cool sci fi concept, acceptable american version of Godzilla, just like they were aiming for.
But then along comes 10 Cloverfield Lane, specifically the ending. Where Clover's attack wasn't the only thing that happened around that time. Around the same time that a biological menace fell out of the sky and attacked the earth without any proper signs of intelligence or strategy until the very end, when they were defeated by the human army. Around that time, a more hostile force also started attacking the earth, this one literally uses Synths to sweep for the remainder of humanity, specifically something that's pretty much a damn hunter and something that looks like a more advanced reimagining of the combine Hunter Chopper, that's where it clicked for me.
Note: I'm not saying this is an ARG, I'm saying this if this wasn't, this was made from the scraps of the Half-Life/Portal movie that Bad Robot was also supposed to be working on.
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