By Chandler Ross (Los Angeles)
The Meticulous and Indecisive Sandwich of 10 Cloverfield Lane
I’m just going to say this since according to my friends, I’ve said it about a million times, I am still in shock that this film on the eve of a January Michael Bay film, didn’t really exist to the public or the industry. Yes, I’m still thinking about it because this film didn’t exist two months ago and that is especially crazy in the age of social media and the Internet where nothing really gets kept under wraps. However, J.J. Abrams defies expectations and throws a film that has had many questioning, is this truly a secret sequel to the 2008 cult favorite, Cloverfield?
Your answer: NO. This is NOT a sequel to Cloverfield. It’s exactly what Abrams said which was “a blood relative.” A spin-off? Anthology film? Yeah, you can say those both describe this film. This film, from what I’ve titled are my two words that I’ve come up with to label this movie: Meticulous, yet so indecisive.
It’s meticulous because of the monstrous amount of thought that gets put into it. From the screenplay, acting, directing, cinematography, sound, mise-en-scene, suspense, overall tension, down to that damn brilliant marketing are so thought out, that it drives me to praise such a film. The screenplay lays out this complex story written by Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken, and Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), about a woman, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who after a brutal car crash wakes up chained in a bunker at the mercy of the unsettling, Howard (John Goodman) who informs her that he saved her life and the world she used to know is no more. Joining them is Howard’s kooky neighbor, Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.) who you don’t know whether is an ally or enemy to Michelle. Speaking of enemy’s Goodman plays Howard with a career high performance that’s full of craziness, suspense, and terror breaking down who really Howard is and if he can be trusted. Howard is such a control freak, full of anger and grief that every time he appears on screen, the audience will instantly feel chills down your spine of what his actions will entail.
I guess that’s the beauty of this film. It’s a constant spine-chilling feeling. Rookie Director Dan Trachtenburg, is a fan of using close-up, claustrophobia with different angles and shot lengths to make you feel what Michelle is feeling: trapped. You root for Michelle, she’s our heroine, and she’s us. An everyday girl who under very unfortunate circumstances got crashed into a situation where her life is a 24/7 battle for survival. Is she safer here with control freak, crazy Howard or outside into a world that may or may not be inhabitable? That question alone, provides a story that has rich mystery that makes people flocking to theaters to see it, I should know because I was one of them.
However, that brings to me to another point, the mystery of it having “Cloverfield” in the name. How does it tie into that world of monsters and mayhem? Well that provides for a final act that doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the film. It’s not bad, but it’s not within what the first two acts of the film were. The first two acts are like if paranoia was kicked up on heroin. You’re in constant fear of what Howard will do and what will become of our heroine, Michelle. The last act answers all of the questions you have that again feels as though it diverges from what those two acts feel like.
Like I’ve said, the marketing team on this film is very brilliant to take this film from the unknown to well, 25 million in box office numbers from opening weekend. However, I have a personal problem with this film and how it got brought out to the public, before its release. At first, I thought the name change was genius to get this film on viewer’s radars to see how this film would come back to Cloverfield. Now seeing it, I retract my statement. I actually wish they never changed the name at the last minute to make it 10 Cloverfield Lane. I understand why they needed to it; it’s for that lingering mystery to get audiences to see this film. From a film perspective, trust me you would have been more surprised if Cloverfield wasn’t mentioned anywhere because the end would have been of something more and like I’ve said a better reveal to the audience. That’s my indecisiveness of the film, including from what I’ve read about the original script and what it included.
More into the indecisiveness, are that the original script and the final film are very different. Both versions have parts that I’m glad they stuck with for the final edit and some I’m glad they changed. You can say that the infrastructure of the film is the same. From there, we have two roads that go in very different paths. The biggest? Maybe, that ending. Personally, hearing about the original ending, man would that have been the biggest “OH MY GOD” ending. Both have the same realms of how they want to end, but the original would have brought probably the tsunami of surprise and shocker to your brain and spine. To say, I’m not disappointed with the film’s end, I enjoyed it and the film’s third act was a ride. Just maybe a ride, that if they kept the original and didn’t tweak as much as they did, could have got that tsunami of shocker and connectivity that maybe we, the audience maybe shouldn’t have already known.
Speaking of reveals, this film brought them. There are chalk-full of twists and turns, one that included me gasping very loud, with my mouth wide-open for a good 30 seconds, trying to comprehend what happened. Damn do they bring the shockers!
I guess what I’m trying to say is that the less you know about the film, the way better off you’ll be. Problem is when I finished it, I already maybe knew too much about it, and that might be to blame because of Abrams and the connectivity of the title he wanted so desperately to make. I get it, he’s trying to make it into a franchise, and it’s a very interesting and clever way about doing it and a move I commend. My business side says the man is a genius, however my film side says maybe that wasn’t the cleverest path to take.
Regardless, it’s a film I urge you all to see because it might be the best thriller/mystery film I’ve seen in quite some time. It brings the chills, horror, human survival that you crave to see just packed into a mystery sandwich. That sandwich is meticulously made and all, with all the bells and whistle, but brings me to a question of indecisiveness, was there a better process to make this thought-out film that could have used its older pieces to bring an even more mysteriously filled film, or in this case in the sandwich? We may never find out.
Michelle: What are you going to do me?
Howard Stambler: I’m going to keep you alive. You were in an accident and I saved your life by bringing you here and everyone outside of here is dead.
Michelle: What happened to your arm? Where you trying to escape?
Emmet: I was trying to get in.