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“10 Cloverfield Lane” Movie Review

All right. “10 Cloverfield Lane.” Let’s do this.

First, the strengths.

John Goodman does a superb job of acting in this film and shows off the breadth of his talent as an actor. He never quite makes it to being viewed as “cuddly” (which he is capable of doing), but he effortlessly weaves from being a sad, sympathetic character to one who’s scary as hell. He pulls off mentally ill, and deranged, and convinces the audience a few times that he’s just a prepper who takes his preps very seriously.

The other two actors, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher, Jr., also put in some fine work. Because of their ensemble performance (with Goodman in the solid lead), the first two acts were filled with nice moments of tension and the story kept you guessing about what was really going on and about Goodman’s true agenda. I’ll admit it. A few times I watched between parted fingers because the drama got pretty intense and tense at times (in a great way).

10 Cloverfield LaneNow let’s get into what was wrong with this movie.

I’m no Hollywood insider (duh), but it’s pretty well known by now that this project started out inspired by a script called, “The Cellar.” However, when J.J. Abrams was slated to produce it (he also produced the 2008 Sci Fi, Horror, Alien Invasion movie, “Cloverfield”) he decided to turn this latest movie into the “spiritual successor” of his previous endeavor.

And that ultimately its only undoing.

Let’s look at it this way.

If I had everyone of you in a room, and we were going to discuss this movie before seeing it, the first thing I’d do is ask is what you thought it was going to be about or what “kind” of movie you thought it might be.

Some might think that it was going to be about a prepper who’s rescued two young people and dragged them to safety with him in his end-of-the world, underground bunker.

So, a survival movie.

But from the trailers, you might think that at some point, things change, and his “guests” believe they’re being held against their will.

So, a psychological thriller.

Then everyone would remember the scene from the trailer where the woman tries to escape and sees something horrific outside just as she’s about to open the final door to the allegedly post-apocalyptic world outside. She sees something out there that makes her reassess her decision to leave. And whatever it is seemed (in the trailer) to give off an eerie, glowing light.

So, a science fiction invasion thriller, maybe like “Cloverfield,” but from a different perspective.

All of these guess (and more) would be correct.

This movie fell down because it felt retrofitted. Acts 1 and 2 were a single movie that wasn’t quite realized as much as it could have been (but close), and Act 3 was a different movie entirely. I laughed when, at the start of Act 3, the main character actually says, “You gotta be kidding me!” because that is exactly what I was thinking when I saw where they took this otherwise fine psychological thriller.

If someone would have wanted to make this movie, from the start, into the movie it ended up becoming, I think it could have been a really good movie. It totally could have worked. But as it was, I could almost hear the script writer cursing as he went back and dribbled a line here and a line there so that the movie would have “plausible deniability” to audiences as to why it ended the way it did.

And they achieved this.

This story could absolutely have played out the way it did if this (somehow) happened in real life. But lots of things happen in real life that don’t make sense together, and some of those things, like this movie, don’t make for solid storytelling.

Go see this movie and completely dig the majority of it. When it turns left (and you’ll know when this happens) break out a sudoku or a crossword puzzle (and some Advil) while the ending plays itself out.

The really good news? I will run to see the next serious fill in which John Goodman stars. He was great.

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