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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

10 Cloverfield Lane | John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher, Jr., Cindy Hogan | Review

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Jacqueline  Monahan

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Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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10 Cloverfield Lane | John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher, Jr., Cindy Hogan | Review

Uh-oh.  There’s that word again.

The last time we heard it was 2008, when the film Cloverfield became a sleeper hit, its found footage immediacy coupled with a large destructive creature wreaking havoc in a metropolis all served up by director J.J. Abrams.

Eight years later we are given a title that hints of a sequel but wonder why it took so long.  The answer is that this latest film, with Cloverfield in the address, was never supposed to BE a sequel; it was another story entirely.  A few additions to title and some additional scenes attached it to the original.  It was worth the wait.

It would have been worth the wait even without the Cloverfield umbilical cord.

While the first film’s set, New York City, was enormous in scope, this film’s world is very, very small.  It is, in fact, an underground microcosm which is either the safest place to be or the most deadly.

Director Dan Trachtenberg (Portal: No Escape, short) makes his feature debut with this suspense-filled, engrossing tale of three people in a modern day bomb shelter owned by someone who might be sinister and insane or wise and benevolent.  You’re never quite sure, and that kind of angst is what makes 10 Cloverfield Lane the kind of film that compels a packed theatre to collectively hold its breath.

Are there monsters above or down below?  Is Howard (John Goodman) a savior who nurses Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) back to health after a car accident, joining good-natured handyman Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.) in a cozy, but creepy threesome in a buried bunker done up to look like a retro farmhouse?  There’s no sex – Howard is a prudish prepper – unless you include the several mind-f**ks that are woven into the script to keep the tension fine-tuned.

After an escape attempt and a confession from Howard, Michelle and Emmett relax a bit and play house in the somewhat claustrophobic confines of the bunker.  Howard is eccentric, religious, savvy, intense and… Michelle will find out more as the days go by.

These three characters make up 90% of the film, nearly joined by a desperate neighbor (Cindy Hogan) her face ravaged by…fire?...radiation?  There are more questions than answers throughout the tense midsection of the film.  Winstead’s character, Michelle, is one smart cookie in a crumbling world.  Resourceful and suspicious, she answers them one by one, and with facial expressions that the viewer can validate because they’re feeling it, too.

The more you don’t know about the film, the more you’ll appreciate it.  You’ll find no spoilers here; that would only lessen the discomfort and who wants that?

John Goodman sheds most of his comedic image to become an enigmatic host, capable of medical care and calculated cruelty, kindness and craziness, wrapped up in one huge grizzled farmer with either good intentions or bad inclinations.  You’re never quite sure until far into the cinematic journey.

Gallagher adds a young male perspective to the tiny cast as the fun-loving, regret-filled Emmett. Michelle and Emmett share just enough of their own back-story to make an emotional impact at crucial points in the script (written by Josh Campbell (4 minute Mile) Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) and first-time screenwriter Matthew Stuecken).  J.J. Abrams produced, and like this distant sequel, is in the zip code of the original without sharing a wall, a ceiling, or a floor.

Property values are sure to increase.

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