Recently: “10 Cloverfield Lane”

Follow up films to a previously highly successful film are tough to pull off. There’s so much to get right and so much too excel at, that one wrong step could be the film’s downfall. When the film comes out of nowhere, and is accompanied by a well done marketing campaign, that really amps up the excitement and level of expectation, you’ve certainly got a film that has a lot of live up to.

The Paramount Pictures film “10 Cloverfield Lane”, is an intense thriller that never lets up or lets you in on exactly what the endgame is.

This psychological thriller stars John Goodman (upcoming “Ratchet and Clank”, “Love the Coopers”), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (“Mercy Street”, “The Returned (2015 TV series)), and John Gallagher Jr. (upcoming “Hush”, “The Newsroom”).

The film is directed by Dan Trachtenberg (“Portal: No Escape (Short 2011)”, “BlackBoxTV”) and written by Josh Campbell (“4 Minute Mile”), Matthew Stuecken (“The Tower of Babble (Short 2002)”), and Damien Chazelle (upcoming “La La Land”, “Whiplash”).

The film originally opened on March 11, 2016.

This is not a sequel. It’s not even a spin-off. It’s an original film that loosely connects back to a previous film that was just as fun, but also fun in a much different way than this film. That’s what I think of it, and I don’t plan on changing my mind on that ever. Ever since I learned about it a few months ago, same with everyone else, I was excited! I had to watch the trailer many times and focus on the marketing as I wondered how it would be done. It was an incredible campaign and it got me more and more excited for the film, and it was worth it! Every moment was worth it. I expected a lot, had no doubts, and was rewarded. How often can you say that? And now, per tradition, let’s take a look at what made this film such a success for me, and hopefully for the majority of other filmgoers.

Let’s see, how can I do this? This is definitely a film where talking about anything in the film is pretty much a no go. It’ll ruin the entire thing. I realized this as I was walking out of the theater and thinking about how I could possibly write this.

This film was definitely about the performances. The performances, in large part, drove the fear and uncertainty of the story. Plus, because of this, the suspense was able to be effectively built up. Right from the beginning, there were a lot of questions about what was occurring. There were always questions about why something was happening. It became a bit impossible to ever pinpoint what was real and what wasn’t. I some ways, I don’t think my mind’s had to work that hard in a long time.

Before I get too deep into the little I can say on the performances, there’s the overall suspense and mystery that makes this a great psychological thriller. How both of these were built up and unleashed lent itself to so many intense sequences. I was always on edge about what was occurring. Could never fully trust what was going on. This is also where the mystery comes into play. I don’t know if overlap is a good way to describe these two things, mainly as they never seemed to overlap. They were both there. Always at the same time. One truly couldn’t exist without the other. And while I can’t really talk about the mystery, what I can say is it was handled excellently. It all lived up to the word of mouth hype and all of my expectations. Mind you, I expected nothing less than that from the producer, J.J. Abrams (upcoming “Star Trek Beyond”, “11..22.63”). Since he really broke out as a director in 2009, he’s only grown into being a man of mystery. He loves the idea of keeping things as secret as possible, and here, once more, it’s evident. And this is where the excellent performances come into play.

Each performance was great, and each character managed to play a drastically different part, and not simply because the story demanded it.

Goodman was the standout! He was downright creepy, friendly, and even a bit frightening. This is probably the best performance of his his in a very long time. For me, it’s certainly my favorite of any of his performances. He embodied all that he needed to. And as the performance went along, there were just so many things, like ticks and mannerisms, that stood out and had my mind running around. Due to the mystery and suspense building, I had to question all that I saw and think about what it all meant. Any one thing could be a misdirect. That much I was certain of. With him in the lead, which is something we rarely see, I had almost no choice but to take what his character gave as fact. Well, until the mystery shifted what I thought I knew.

Not to forget or undercut Winstead or Gallagher Jr., as they were both equally as impressive, but they each did something more than just be trapped characters in a scary situation that makes no sense. Winstead really embodied what it was like to be a member of the audience, or at least me and what it was like going into this film. I went in not knowing, in some ways, what was going on. Granted, this is the purpose, but it was highlighted by Winstead’s character’s own fear of the unknown. I found it interesting that through her, I was able to get most of my cues. I felt most of what I did because of her and this made it even more fun to watch her. Goodman, rightly so, brought a lot of other things as he only told them so much, which kept the overall mystery and what to believe alive and going.

Gallagher Jr., plays an easily likable character, and provides enough of the doubt, but in a different direction. He doesn’t realize, somehow, ohhh crap! I was typing and looking at what I wrote, and once again discovered that I couldn’t go with what I originally thought. At least not as it’s written. Let’s see, let’s see… Much like Winstead he’s searching for what’s really going on, and just trying to survive. I would be too if I was stuck in a bunker, even if I chose to be in that bunker. All that’s left to say is, like with Winstead and Goodman, he delivered a great performance that has me excited about what he decides to do next.

The score done by Bear McCreary (upcoming season “Outlander”, “Damien”) was surprisingly a perfect fit! At first I wasn’t sure he was the right choice. I haven’t heard enough of his stuff to really be sure. Even when I was listening to the soundtrack, which I’ve been doing since Thursday night, I wasn’t sure how I felt. I could feel the eerie bits of score and tell, quite easily, when something was getting more and more intense. Interestingly, when I was listening to it separately, like now, McCreary’s score managed to get my heart racing from time to time. I call that a huge plus! His score, like all the other aspects of this film, just helped sow seeds of doubt and anxiety, that led to suspense building, which is where the film succeeds. I’m not sure how this film would’ve worked without score, or with less uses of score, but this film definitely got an added boost because of McCreary.

There’s one final thing that I thought I could mention, but keeping with not revealing anything, or certainly trying my best not to, and the fact that I just now realized I would be by talking about it, I can’t. When I outlined the great things about this film, for this post, I hadn’t realized what I was scribbling down. It goes to show I just write and don’t fully things about what it is I’m writing. I guess that’s okay too, as I’m merely trying to sort out what I thought of a film. Anyway. This area that I can’t refer to was also handled quite well. I loved every ounce of it and it made the rest of the film’s story and build up all the more worth it!

As you can see talking about this film has been difficult. Fortunately, what that means, other than you should go and see this film, is that it’s all been well worth it. Even if you’ve never seen the original film, that’s okay. You don’t need to. For me, what it’s showing is that there are people who truly care about the story, and since it’s a big mystery, keeping as much as possible under wraps. As this is a thriller, and not a horror film, which is itself difficult to pull off and distinguish, it succeeds. Some films like this don’t work, and some come close but it’s not enough. I’m just glad there’s once again hope for this genre as well as new filmmakers.


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