Life in Writing
I went into this movie already prepared to take it with a pretty massive grain of salt. After all, this is a very belated sequel to Cloverfield. You remember, that super shaky camera, found footage monster movie from like eight years ago? In case you forgot, the reviews weren't great. Here's a quick video recap with some of the things people didn't like:
To give full disclosure, I actually liked the original in most respects. My main problem with it was just that all the shaky camera work and bright flashing lights gave me a bit of a headache, but the monsters were pretty cool, and the acting was pretty decent, so that combined with the average, but not bad plot line made Cloverfield a movie that I liked, but certainly didn’t love.
Fast forward a few years and this trailer comes out for 10 Cloverfield Lane:
When I saw this trailer I was intrigued, but when I found out that 10 Cloverfield Lane is actually a sequel to Cloverfield, I had a mixed reaction. I was curious about the story, but wasn’t sure if it would be worth the headache the first film gave me. To my surprise and delight, 10 Cloverfield Lane had almost nothing to do with Cloverfield. It was in every respect, its own movie.
The plot line stands on its own, and the writing is well done.
At this point, I want to talk about the literary devices that made the movie work, and with this story, that’s not going to be easy to do without spoilers, so if you haven’t seen this movie yet and you're a spoiler-phobe, you should stop reading right here. But if you've seen it, or you just don't care about knowing parts of teh story ahead of time, then please read on.
I appreciate that you decided to keep on reading. In the interest of keeping this blog post at a good length, I’ll just post the biggest problem with the story telling as well as the part they handled best.
Biggest Problem: Jarring mood shift.
I must confess that this is a very minor gripe with the film, as there actually was significant foreshadowing for the final plot point where Michelle discovers that the world actually has been attacked by aliens, the thing the film didn’t quite prepare us for was the sudden change in the feel of the movie that came with that plot revelation. The entire film is built up well as a psychological thriller, and in that respect performs spectacularly, however, in the last ten minutes of the movie, it jarringly shifts into a sci-fi action film. I’m a fan of both genres, and I very much appreciate the attempt to combine them; however, the sudden change in mood leaves the viewer a bit unsure of what to feel at the end of the movie. A little preparation would have gone a long way in smoothing over the transition, but all in all, it’s really a pretty minor complaint.
Biggest Success: Characterization.
I cannot praise highly enough how well done the characterization was in this film. Every character was well fleshed out, and likeable in different ways, but the real gem of this film was John Goodman’s character Howard. He was faced with the challenge of playing a psychopath with an obsession for preparation who was still somewhat likeable, and he actually pulled it off. There were several scenes throughout the movie where I genuinely liked Howard, despite his weird quirks, but just as soon as I started thinking he was a good guy, he would snap, becoming jealous, violent, and absolutely terrifying. He was dynamic and unpredictable, and yet by the end of the movie, all of his motives made perfect sense. I can’t even begin to tell you how difficult that is for a writer to capture, so I have to give some serious props to the writers of 10 Cloverfield Lane, as well as John Goodman for really nailing this difficult aspect of storytelling.
Overall, this film was a success. It’s definitely a niche movie, so if psychological thrillers and alien invasions aren’t your cup of tea, you might not enjoy this film as much, but you still probably won’t hate it. It’s interesting and engaging throughout, and I’m happy to recommend it.
Daniel M. Quilter is the author of A Soul Divided. On this blog he'll interview other authors, review books, share nerd wisdom from popular sci-fi and fantasy, and occasionally share his insights on writing. See a list of his works or see what he's working on.
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