‘Cloverfield’ sequel: Simple premise brings surprises

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‘Cloverfield’ sequel: Simple premise brings surprises

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From start to finish, “10 Cloverfield Lane” will keep you guessing at every turn: from the motives of its characters to the very conflict of the film. Starting quickly, we see our protagonist, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), get run off the road in an unexpectedly vicious car accident. She wakes up to find herself chained to the wall in a dank, concrete room. From the beginning, the situation seems inescapable, as Michelle struggles to reach her phone only to find that any signal is out of reach. Soon after, John Goodman’s character, Howard, appears, ominously revealing that he brought Michelle into his underground bunker to keep her safe from an unknown disaster. Michelle’s untrusting nature and Howard’s entitled and controlling mannerisms make the audience question whether there is any truth to what Howard described outside the bunker. This mystery turns out to be the driving force and highlight of the film. What should Michelle be more afraid of, the dangers outside or Howard?

This movie deftly draws upon the idea that fear should be of the people around us, or of even ourselves. This psychological thriller simultaneously has a hold of our attention and makes us desperately want to look away, not only out of fear, but also out of an emotional connection developed with the characters early on. Throughout, Michelle proves to be a strong-willed, untrusting heroine who from the beginning won’t lie down and die. It strongly contrasts with the helplessness of her situation: being trapped in a small bunker with a man who has both the keys and the answers.

Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), the third and final main character, provides some comic relief early on, but we soon find his light-hearted nature is shadowed by a self-destructive streak. Despite supporting Michelle with his company, he is unable to answer her questions. In the confined space of the bunker, unsure of Howard’s true intentions, Emmett’s character gives a sense of comfort to Michelle and the audience.

“10 Cloverfield Lane” shadows the audience in the claustrophobia and fear felt by its protagonist. The terror of Howard, a large, ex-Navy farmer, creeps into our hearts as we hear his first lines of dialogue. He chastises Michelle for her lack of gratitude and explains how he snooped through her purse because he felt he had the right. After all, he saved her life, right? This sense of entitlement, control and emotional manipulation uncomfortably intensifies throughout the film. This fear doubles with the uncertainty of the validity of Howard’s narrative and the mystery of if he actually did save Michelle from the terrible fate of being left outside the bunker, or if he had simply kidnapped her and fed her a clever lie to keep her guessing.

Each actor’s performance was outstanding, with John Goodman creating an unsettling and dominating presence in the confined space of the bunker. With unaware, socially isolating dialogue, he flits between severe and childish remarks, making the audience question his very sanity. Winstead quietly portrays a quick-thinking and determined woman who is ever wary of the dangers surrounding her. Although being strong from the start, Michelle becomes an even more resolute and inspiring character throughout the film. John Gallagher Jr. gives off a friendly, farm-boy vibe that brings a balance to the struggle for survival in what, without him, would be an unbearably disturbing movie. Regardless, his character is far from static, and with the help of Michelle, he starts to question what he previously regarded as truth.

The simple premise of “10 Cloverfield Lane” allows for the emotions and fears of its characters to guide the story to a dark, unsettling place. Certainly not your typical horror movie, this film’s fright is derived from a very real and relatable conflict. I highly suggest you go out and see this movie as soon as possible without any other research, because uncertainty is undoubtedly the best part of the ride.