There is nothing quite like seeing a movie in your college town. The Embassy Cinema, a cozy theater in Waltham with only six screens, provides the newest releases and is close to campus. Unfortunately it doesn’t have stadium seating, so someone tall sitting in front of you could block part of the screen. Gladly, this was not an issue when I went to see the new film “10 Cloverfield Lane,” an intense thriller that is a semi follow up to “Cloverfield” (2008), a found-footage film about aliens attacking Earth. “Cloverfield” was directed by J.J. Abrams, who has received much notoriety for directing “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Abrams, now also the producer for “10 Cloverfield Lane,” makes his mark on the film: its flowing narrative pace throughout and edgy scenes are reminiscent of the surprise shots from “Super 8,” a film collaboration between Spielberg and Abrams.
“10 Cloverfield Lane” is directed by Dan Trachtenberg, making it his first movie in Hollywood. He has shown a strong entrance as a director, as he was able to lead a fine cast of John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr. Trachtenberg also leaves the film’s mood with a sense of mystery and scariness, eerily similar to Hitchcock, specifically his movie “Rope.” Most of “10 Cloverfield Lane” takes place underground in just a few rooms with three people. “Rope” is similar in the sense that there is high tension created between only two characters, with all of the movie in one room. The idea for the film had apparently come up a long time ago, fairly close to when “Cloverfield” was already released. The objective was not to make a franchise of “Cloverfield,” but to build on the already-made plot and create a new story with a twist. There really is no resemblance between this one and its predecessor, which makes it all the more unique.
In “10 Cloverfield Lane,” after surviving a car accident, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) awakens and finds herself in an underground bunker with two men. Howard (John Goodman) tells her that there was a huge chemical outbreak that made the outside world unlivable, and their only hope of existing is to stay in the bunker. Howard is crazy and controlling, making Michelle want to escape. After taking matters into her own hands, Michelle learns the truth about the world outside of the bunker.
Though the movie made me jump at times, it still felt like J.J. Abrams left the audience hanging. He was only the producer of the movie, but his involvement in the film is clearly noticed. There is an empty sensation to his movies that I’ve found in his “Star Trek” rendition, “Star Wars” and now “10 Cloverfield Lane.” The end of the movie leaves us hanging, obviously letting the audience know that there will be a sequel. The same thing happened in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” as well, and it left me disappointed. His eagerness to be mainstream looms over his movies and does so in “10 Cloverfield Lane,” even with Abrams as the producer rather than director.
What saves the movie’s credibility is John Goodman’s performance. It gave me goosebumps. He portrays a man on the edge of sanity for whom control is essential. His insanity is not that obvious, as perhaps some less mature actors’ portrayals would be. He keeps us wondering every scene, showing hints of the once-kind man that Howard used to be before this “chemical attack,” but even masking those in a sense of harmlessness. Howard reminds Michelle and Emmett that he saved them so often that the audience starts to wonder what Goodman is going to expect in return.
The movie’s production went under the nose of many, as “10 Cloverfield Lane” was not actually known until the preview was released. That is quite clever on J.J. Abrams’ part. It was a movie that added a nice twist to “Cloverfield,” but just does not quite have the same magnitude or thrilling effect.