Very rarely does a sequel outperform its predecessor. 10 Cloverfield Lane ditches the found-footage approach used by its 2008 big brother Cloverfield, singling in on what we are told to be three survivors of an unknown attack. Located almost exclusively in a bomb shelter, the film succeeds in establishing an atmosphere of discomfort and mistrust, leaving an audience as unsure as Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), its main protagonist.
The film manages to dangle its audience at the edge of understanding. I arrived at several conclusions regarding the motive of Howard’s character (John Goodman) and am still unsure how I feel towards him. Goodman proves his ability to be liked in spite of all we learn about his character, and what we see of his interactions with both Michelle and Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.). Initially an out and out villain, Goodman manages to display glimpses of compassion through his erratic behaviour, proving – much like the narrative of the film – that all things are not black and white.
“It is only at the end that we realise we have been totally blindsided to the truth”
Throughout the film we are forced into viewing the film’s climax in one of two ways. I won’t go into what the two different ways are (although that does become pretty evident from the film’s trailer).
What the film’s story does so well is establish these two possible narrative revelations and force them to exist separately. As an audience, we are only made to consider one or the other. It is only at the end that we realise that we have been totally blindsided to the truth.
Now, if you’re a fan of large spectacles, you’re probably asking yourself: shall I bother watching this film? I would say so.
The three character cast allowed for extensive deliberations and mistrust which I think added to the film’s charm. It felt more like I’d been to see a play than the sequel to a fairly high-grossing science fiction movie.
“the premise carries this film”
However, choosing to shoot with such a small cast can prove troublesome. If you’re working with fewer characters, you’ve got to be dealing with some pretty interesting people. By and large, I’d argue the film succeeds. Howard’s conflicted, and somewhat pathetic, persona allows us to love and hate him. Michelle functions well as the film’s catalyst, although her motivation and drive often appear somewhat clichéd and undeveloped. To an extent Emmett, too, appeared un-fleshed out; although this seemed more a fault of the dialogue than the delivery. The conversations he had with the other characters felt more like a forty-year-old imitation of a twenty-something’s conversation than genuine fly on the wall dialogue.
With this said, the premise carries this film. While the dialogue can be at times slightly robotic and predictable, the heart of this film saves it from failure. The overwhelming paranoia of Michelle’s character infects the cast and creates inventive scenarios that prove interesting to watch.
I only wish the film ended five minutes earlier. It seemed the intention of the film moved from an examination of relationships to the best means of establishing the basis of another sequel.