I will be the first to admit that I did not see Cloverfield back in 2007. The viral-marketing, found footage phenomenon was something I chose to forego, due to less-than-shining reviews I heard from friends. So going into seeing a film with Cloverfield in the title, I really had no idea what I was expecting to see. Was it a kaiju monster film? An isolation film? I had no idea.
Because of the secrecy and utterly surprising nature of this film’s sudden promotion and release, it was basically impossible to get a sense for what the movie or even the tone was. This uncertainty proved to be a key component of the viewing experience.
What I did end up seeing was a tensely paced thriller feature that kept most of the audience on the edges of their seats for the entire picture. Those in the theater at my screening alternated between shocked, whispered curses and yelps of surprise. The film twists conventional storylines, turns over emotional beats in unexpected ways, and stretches the tension to bow-and-arrow proportions, before firing and surprising everyone. The first two acts are so well-articulated, and the rules of this movie’s world were so clear. The story fraught with nervous tension. Where it falters a bit is towards the tail end of the third act, in which what was a psychological story turned into a more classical expression of disaster films. It just didn’t quite land for me, as tonally, this third act felt like almost a completely different movie.
All in all however, this was an excellent first voyage for director Dan Trachtenberg, who hadn’t directed anything close to a production the size of “10 Cloverfield Lane.” Here, he takes the audience on a very authentic experience, despite it’s sci-fi underpinnings. Lest I drift too deeply into spoiler territory, I will simply say that the story crafted by Matthew Stuecken, Josh Campbell, and Damien Chazelle keeps audiences guessing, alternating between set-ups that cohere and set-ups that don’t, artfully leaving us at the mercy of the unpredictable. John Goodman delivers an empathetic yet ferocious performance, while Mary Elizabeth Winstead proves to be an absolute revelation.
10 Cloverfield Lane is an excellent thriller and may stand to remain one of the best movies we will see this year. The suspense is to die for.