Saturday, March 12, 2016

Stranger Danger

It begins, as it once did (ish), with a desperate woman packing a bag, frantically considering her exit strategy.

Helmed by first-time feature-film director Dan Trachtenberg and produced by J.J Abrams, 10 Cloverfield Lane – a so-called blood relative to 2008s surprise outta-nowhere hit Cloverfield – silently follows the woman, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), for a while...long enough for nothing and everything to happen to her before the film’s title card is even revealed to us. We’re with her from the instant she upends her life to the moment she wakes up, hurt, bloodied, and chained to a pipe, in an ominous-looking concrete-walled room, an IV drip pumping her with fluids.

She’s been in a terrible car accident, a burly man named Howard informs her. She should calm down and rest, he tells her (a confused Michelle already has attempted to free herself and escape – as you do)She should know that she is safe.

She is one of the lucky ones, and fortunate to be there.

Howard is played by John Goodman, so all of this comes off as both somewhat comforting and quietly menacing. Because Michelle is in his doomsday bunker, and now so are we.

Obviously, the question becomes: Is she safe? We are, because we’re watching it all unfold from the safety of the movie theater (phew!) – and because we know that there’s gotta be more to a movie branded Cloverfield.

Christmas came real early again this year. This is a Bad Robot mystery box (GTS), and oh what a time it is opening it up.

Working from a story and a script by a Josh Campbell and a Matthew Stuecken (Whiplashs Damien Chapelle contributed to the finish product), Trachtenberg paces 10 Cloverfield Lane with Hitchcockian panache, with an eerie that is both patient and urgent. That all that Winstead’s face can initially, immediately transmit to us is a sense of WTF is happening in this room? is an asset to Trachtenberg. That her hair and wardrobe is styled in the manner of Lizzy Caplan in Coverfield is a nod to that blockbuster – another piece of connective tissue to that little sleeper hit, which, as you will remember, was set many, many miles to the northeast of where the action is set in this one, underground somewhere in Louisiana.

Howard has rescued Michelle from her crash. He has taken her into his post-apocalyptic hideaway because he knows there has been an attack; he is convinced of it (could be the Russians...could be the Martians – yeah, he’s that kind o’ guy). He thinks nothing of, y’ know, not having asked her because he has always believed in being prepared, per his own admission. He is a (smart) man. This is his house, and Michelle and Emmett – Howard’s other, much-more dimwitted guest (played by John Gallagher Jr.) – should do well to be grateful and behave by his rules.

What is going on out there, though?

We will concern ourselves with that soon enough. For now, more pressingly, Michelle is beyond-desperate to sort out what’s going on in this well-appointed-and-stocked, mildly claustrophobic space.

Danger lurks in both – but which is worse?

Precisely therein lies the entertainment, and the frights, of 10 Cloverfield Lane. Not much can be shared without spoiling the fun, but know that Goodman totally brings it: He is so off-putting in a totally nominatable way.

He and his co-stars share a scene in which they play a game around a table, right. In that scene, Goodman really drives it home that Michelle and Emmett should be terrified of Howard and his psyche. It proves that he might the lesser of two evils as it reminds us – and Michelle – that evil is evil, no matter how ya slice it.

That realization prompts Winstead to get up and earn her Ripley moment, which, yes, she does get.

Enough said. Get up and go see for yourself.


My Rating ****

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