Movie Review: ’10 CLOVERFIELD LANE’ – a mind-blowing experience injected with paranoia

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James Cole Clay  // Film Critic

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE | 105 min | PG-13
Director: Dan Trachtenberg 
Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman and John Gallager Jr.

Movie trailers these days tend to give away too much plot. The film industry has an idea that audiences like to be spoon fed the plot so they know exactly what they are paying for, and the sad part about this is they are correct.

J.J. Abrams’ production company, Bad Robot (a seemingly spiritual successor to Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, has other ideas about the way theatergoers want to consume their movies. Here’s the model: tell you as little about the project as possible with just enough tease to get your $15 bucks.

The super secretive project “10 CLOVERFIELD LANE” is a peculiar title to say the least. It was originally working under the phony title VALENCIA and THE CELLAR, and was kept under wraps, minus the news that filmmaker Dan Trachtenberg – who reportedly got the gig after creating a short film based on the first-person shooter Portal – was attached. And plus, fans may get confused by the use of the word “Cloverfield,” which it may or may not be related to the 2008 found-footage monster flick, but that name alone is what is going to put butts in seats.  Just know that 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE doesn’t resemble, borrow, or look anything like its predecessor.

From Left to Right John Gallagher Jr., Mary Elizabeth Winstead & John Goodman in 10 Cloverfield Lane (photo courtesy of Paramount pictures)

L-R: John Gallagher Jr., Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman in 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE. Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

With 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE, it’s all about trust. The heroine of the film, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) must figure out if she can trust two men. One is a towering and eccentric doomsday prepper named Howard (John Goodman), while the other is a simple yet endearing local fella by the name of Emmet (John Gallagher Jr.). And the audience must trust that they are in good hands with Trachtenberg and his astounding debut feature that expertly blends unnerving tension with character development.

Every element in 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE compliments the other. The nuances in the performances add to the concept, while the action provides a launch pad for Winstead’s cunning performance, or Goodman’s threatening presence. While underneath the heat rises and Trachtenberg slowly reveals that things could come unhinged at any minute. None of this would be possible without the crisp camerawork by Jeff Cutter (ORPHAN), who has to shift from a still dinner scene with the direction of a play to a claustrophobic set-piece in an air duct. From soup to nuts, Trachtenberg, Cutter, composer Bear McCreary and Bad Robot know how to create a truly unique experience out of already familiar narrative devices.

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE is a film to play along with, one that will bring an audience together in a shared experience that you just can’t get from a web slinger or a billionaire vigilante.

The film opens up in special engagements tonight and nationwide on Friday (3/11).