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Monday, March 21, 2016

(Jesse's Take) 10 Cloverfield Lane 2016 * * * 1/2 Stars

10 Cloverfield LaneDirector: Dan Trachtenberg
Year: 2016
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher, Jr.

Like Academy Award winner Brie Larson, Mary Elizabeth Winstead acts brilliantly with her eyes. In 10 Cloverfield Lane (my latest review), she portrays the quintessential, astute heroine. Winstead channels fear, dread, and discomfort like nobody's business. And being the only good commodity in 2011's prequel The Thing, she's now the best commodity in "Lane" (2016's most beguiling surprise).

Produced by J.J. Abrams, taking place in Louisiana, showcasing a soundtrack fastened with 60's radio hits, and having all of its plot points intricately put into their rightful places, 10 Cloverfield Lane is nifty not to mention wholly original. A majority of its running time is in enclosed spaces (agoraphobics need not worry). In terms of its final act, well "Lane" has a quota of squirmy, alien fare. The CGI and special effects are decent but may just be for show. You will for the most part, be more enamored by what you didn't see on the outside (the first 90 minutes are what I like to call the violence in the mind).

Anyway, the film with only 4 characters visible on screen, is a genre piece tested purely in psychological thrills and chills. On the surface, its structure as a sequel (to 2008's more big-budgeted Cloverfield) feels a lot like direct-to-video. Thankfully that never ends up being the case. And rightfully, "Lane" isn't a follow-up that continues the whole found footage BS.

The story begins with an outlined car crash scene so loud, so instinctive, and so unexpected, it might just make you flip out of your seat. In said crash is thirtysomething Michelle (played by Mary Winstead). Michelle has just broken off her engagement to her boyfriend Ben (voiced by Bradley Cooper). After leaving his ring and keys to his apartment on the dining room table, she drives away to someplace north of the Bayou State. A mystery motorist hits her from the back, Michelle's car spins out of control, and she ends up in a ditch. When she awakens, she finds herself constricted to an underground shelter owned by a short-tempered man named Howard Stambler (played by John Goodman). Howard has either abducted her or wants to keep her alive from an unknown, extraterrestrial/nuclear attack. Unsure of his motivations (Howie is a little rattled, a little threatening, and socially inept), Michelle vows to escape anyway even though Goodman's trouper thinks the air outside is unbreathable. She attempts this with the help of another young soul in confinement (the naive Emmett Dewitt played by John Gallagher, Jr.). Some online critics have compared 10 Cloverfield Lane to last year's Academy Award winner, Room. If that's the case then heck, sign me up.

Now "Lane" with its bedazzling score, its claustrophobic setting eliminating plenty of storyline holes, and its 1950's bunker overtones, is an effectual, nerve-shredding thriller. It evokes Hitchcock, The Twilight Zone, and doesn't need extra images of monsters to invigorate you, the viewer. Having seen Cloverfield, I didn't get much of a connection between that shaky camera vehicle and the new, supposed successor. No matter. 10 Cloverfield Lane stands on its own with three great performances (the creepy John Goodman, Winstead, and the affable John Gallagher, Jr.), a sense of disquiet that exists in the gray matter, and direction by rookie Dan Trachtenberg that feels like seasoned veteran stuff. The ending which I won't reveal, contains a level of badassery (not to mention an inkling of hope). It will make you pump your fist and feel a sense of wonderment all at the same time. My rating: 3 and a half stars.

Of note: If you haven't seen "Lane" yet, brace yourself. This might sound a little weird. There's a slight homage to the 1986 flick, Pretty in Pink (yup). In that 80's relic, Molly Ringwald is an aspiring designer of clothes. She draws up attire patterns with pencils and paper. In 10 Cloverfield Lane, Winstead's Michelle does the exact same thing. She tries to design a space suit in case she escapes the isolated, underground bunker (small spoiler). Oh and look for a scene where John Goodman's Howard actually watches "Pink" on VHS. All hail Harry Dean Stanton (ha).

Written by Jesse Burleson

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