10 Cloverfield Lane

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Can you like a movie and be mad at it at the same time? Sure you can. Let me explain.

Here’s what I liked about 10 Cloverfield Lane, a thriller starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman:  For about 90 percent of its runtime, it’s a tight, claustrophobic puzzler. Winstead’s car is run off a Louisiana back road, and when she regains consciousness she finds herself imprisoned in an underground bunker with an ominous jailer named “Howard” (Goodman). Howard informs her that he is actually her savior and that while she was unconscious there was an environmental disaster, possibly nuclear, possibly chemical, or possibly extraterrestrial. Unfortunately, she, Howard, and a third survivor, Howard’s neighbor, must ride out the catastrophe in the underground shelter, possibly for years.

So far, so good. So far, the movie is like Misery with this twist: Winstead doesn’t trust creepy captor Howard — but there’s evidence his story might be true.

 

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Now here’s why I’m mad: In the film’s climax, we find out whether or not Howard has been telling the truth. It’s a satisfying ending, but … it’s not the ending. The filmmakers, bless their sequel-loving hearts, choose to extend the ending, expand the story, and turn what had been a taut, adult thriller into something loud, splashy, trailer-friendly — and guaranteed to bring 13-year-olds back to theaters for Cloverfield the Sequel.

There were two or three times in the final minutes when I thought, “This is the perfect ending,” or “Now would be a great time to roll the credits.” But no, audiences expect overkill these days, apparently, so we must have two or three endings. Why settle for delicious ambiguity when you can spell things out in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS and show off your special effects?

 

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It’s too bad, because what comes before the overblown denouement is some nail-biting suspense, some smart writing, and two solid performances by Goodman and Winstead.     Grade: B+

 

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Director: Dan Trachtenberg  Cast: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr., Douglas M. Griffin, Suzanne Cryer  Release: 2016

 

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