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Goodman shines in ’10 Cloverfield Lane’

| Thursday, April 7, 2016

'10 Cloverfield Lane' BannerOLIVIA MIKKELSEN | The Observer

I watched the original “Cloverfield” on a plane, thousands of feet in the air. It was an interesting experience, to say the least. The shaky camera style of cinematography that “Cloverfield” employed is known to cause theatergoers motion sickness, and even worse for those viewing the film in a turbulent plane. Yet, despite all the stomach pain, I thoroughly enjoyed “Cloverfield” and was left eager for more by the end of the film.

Thankfully, “10 Cloverfield Lane” answered my desire for more, albeit in an unexpected way. Instead of being a direct sequel to the original, “10 Cloverfield Lane” is considered a spiritual successor. The movie eschews many aspects of “Cloverfield” that were key to making the movie what it was. Instead of a shaky cam, “10 Cloverfield Lane” uses a more traditional style of filming; instead of taking place in a massive metropolis as in the original, it limits its focus to a cramped, underground bunker for the brunt of the film.

The film begins with a young woman named Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) waking up after a car crash, chained to a wall in a makeshift holding cell. Her apparent captor Howard (John Goodman), quickly introduces himself before explaining how he saved the young woman’s life. The imposing Howard then claims that there was an attack on the United States and the two must remain in the bunker he has built, as the air above was supposedly contaminated with an unknown poison. Michelle, skeptical of this pronouncement, as any rational person would be in her situation, begins to calculate an escape plan. Yet, as the movie progresses, more and more contradictory details emerge, obscuring the reality for both Michelle and the viewer alike.

The final character introduced in the film is Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.), another apparent survivor. Emmett’s story differs from Michelle in that he claims to have fled to the shelter when he witnessed the attack. Emmett plays a smaller role than either Howard or Michelle, but he is absolutely vital to the films development. Throughout the film, Emmett acts as a link between the two other characters. He both assuages Michelle’s fears about Howard’s story — as he claims to have seen the attack himself — and acts as a fellow skeptic, welcoming Michelle’s ideas that Howard isn’t who he claims to be.

Michelle’s decision making throughout the film is a welcome relief from the status quo of modern horror movies, chiefly that her decisions actually make sense. She approaches her situation with an impressive amount of levelheadedness, considering how she is trapped underground with two strange men. Michelle is willing to accept evidence that Howard is telling the truth, but she never loses her skepticism — she is always on the lookout for cracks in his story.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead did a fantastic job portraying this realistic character, but the real stand out performance was given by John Goodman. Goodman almost doesn’t even need to speak — his presence alone contributes a palpable tension throughout the film. It is clear that Howard is in the position of authority in the shelter, and Goodman’s performance makes this clear for every second the camera is on him.

Viewers expecting “Cloverfield 2” may be disappointed. “10 Cloverfield Lane” does not have the nonstop action of its predecessor. Instead, the second installment offers more of a slow burn: a building of tensions that culminates in a heart-pounding conclusion that will leave audiences with their jaws dropped, if nothing else.

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