The selection of films I've seen on premiere day is pretty thin. Even smaller is how many I've seen during their first scheduled screenings. Hell, all I can think of on that front are “The Avengers:, and “The Woman in Black” (odd double feature, I know). Thursday night brought that up to a trilogy with the premiere of “10 Cloverfield Lane”, the surprise “spiritual sequel” to 2008's found footage kaiju flick. Surely you can imagine I must be a pretty big fan of the first film. I also didn't want to spend the weekend dodging spoilers on the internet. Since I was lucky enough to actually be on top of pop-culture for the moment, I figured I should bring you all a review. Now I'm going to do my best to avoid spoilers for you fine folk but since I have to mention certain instances of story for the sake of this review, those who wish to see it without any clues should maybe go watch TV or something.
First up is the big question of what “spiritual sequel” really means. For anyone who doesn't wish to know about connections (or lack thereof ) with the previous film, please skip to the next paragraph. You gone? Last chance. Alright, so back in the early eighties the viewing public was treated to a little gem called “Halloween III: Season of the Witch.” It was an attempt to change that series from being solely about a masked killer to an anthology franchise. It still focused on the same wonderful holiday and shared several themes but audiences simply didn't dig it.“10 Cloverfield Lane” makes a similar gambit, sharing themes and concepts with it's predecessor while forging it's own path. There are elements that could be used as an argument for this being an actual sequel, but let's face it, this is something new. You're either on board with that or not.
As far as the story is concerned, there is some truth in advertising. The vast majority of the film is about three people in a survival bunker. One is a young woman who wakes up after a car accident, another is a fairly basic country guy, and then there's Howard. Played by John Goodman, Howard is the king of this particular castle and from the moment you see him there's doubt if his story of a destroyed world is legit. Thankfully the movie doesn't take too long before revealing whether there or not there is any truth to his wild theories. This allows things within the bunker to unfold at a nice pace without driving viewers up the wall as they wonder what's true or false.
Performances are excellent all around with Goodman being the standout in possibly my favorite role of his since “Arachnophobia.” Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr both prove to be up to the task of standing up their hosts unique brand of crazy. It's a blessing to have such talented performers with a script like this as the character focused narrative could easily turn insufferable if even one actor failed to pull their weight.
The strong acting helps to hold your attention which in turn helps the pacing. I didn't even realize the movie was and hour and forty-three minutes long until I checked IMDB for this review. Watching it felt more like a breezy eighty minute flick.
There's plenty of suspense, drama, comedy, and even a teeny bit of gross stuff for those of us who like that sort of thing. It's a very well-rounded tale that keeps things moving and leaves just enough room for later twists which thankfully don't feel out of place. There's very little to complain about, though a few details of the bunker didn't seem fully thought out. Mainly the air vent area being so hard to access. It really felt out of place for a guy otherwise fully prepared for the end times.
Overall it's a damn fine film, possibly one of the best we'll see all year. But is it as good as it's namesake? In my opinion, no. I much prefer Matt Reeve's giant monster opus yet I'm still happy with what's here. Director Dan Trachtenberg has crafted a fine thriller with enough juicy details to elevate it above more traditional fare. I'm hopeful we'll see another “Cloverfield” someday, maybe a little sooner than eight years next time.
Oh and a major thumbs up to Howard's snack selection. I don't know what the shelf life is for Fruit by the Foot but I'll be damned if I didn't have some around for the end of the world.