Friday, March 18, 2016

3 Thoughts on 10 Cloverfield Lane

1. Mary Elizabeth Winstead - First and foremost, I must discuss the spectacular, Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Of course, like most movie buffs, I adored her in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. However, I didn't really dig her in Smashed. I actually thought she gave a terrible performance; and was disappointed that she might not be as great as I originally thought. This performance blew me away. I saw the movie a week ago, and every single day since then I have thought about her performance. It helps that the character is great. This could have easily been a generic scream queen kind of role; one where you're constantly screaming at the screen for her to stop being so dumb and save herself. Instead, this girl is smart. She wakes up in an underground bunker, with a strange and possibly psychotic man telling her that the world above them is gone. While the premise is sci-fi in its description (and ultimate ending); this, in fact, is a horror movie. A fucking scary-as-fuck horror movie. There is nothing in the first two-thirds of the movie that couldn't happen. The world is a scary place; if I woke up after a car accident in a bunker with someone telling me the air above is uninhabitable, of course, I would fight that, but a part of me would fear that it is true. That's exactly what Michelle (yes, that's the character's name, and yes, it was super distracting because it was yelled over and over again) fears. You feel her fear with every breath she takes. You rack your brain for the next step to survive and she beats you to it. It's a performance I will never forget, and a character that will live in the very limited realm of strong, well-rounded, smart female characters that I consider heroes.

2. Every detail - I would be surprised if this doesn't end up on my best of 2016 list. It will probably end in the top 5. That's not a surprise, as I usually love Bad Robot productions and Cloverfield was one of my favorites of 2008. I like the feeling that these movies invoke. The way that you feel just as confused as the characters about events that are happening. The audience has no idea what the truth is, who to trust, or what events precede the story. I'm SURE there are plot-holes. And I'm sure there are plenty of websites and blogs that have already pointed them all out. I don't care about any of it. For me, the movie had the perfect amount of details and foreshadowing to explain every character action. Along with Winstead, the other two actors, John Goodman and John Gallagher Jr., are just as strong. This is a role of a lifetime for Goodman (and he's had a few). There are points where he is the creepiest man on Earth, and points where the audience sympathizes with him while still questioning his motives (and his sanity). It's that constant questioning of character that keeps the audience on the edge of their seat, and it's the performances alone that cause this uneasiness. There are also these really beautiful staged moments of silence that are so haunting. These moments are even scarier than the traditional horror moments. It's a hard thing to achieve, but everything about this movie is just perfect.

3. The Cloverfield connection - This is the part that seems to be the most divisive. People either love it, hate it, or don't get it. I love it. I think it's a genius and innovative move. If you consider the way television has changed over the last few years, and how anthologies have had a successful resurgence (Fargo, AHS, American Crime), this makes perfect sense. Film audiences are exhausted by sequels, prequels, and remakes, so JJ and company asked the question "what's next?" and they gave us the answer. This is not a sequel, prequel, or remake. It's not really related to the Cloverfield story at all. Although, I've read several pieces on the "connections" and some seem like major stretches of the imagination, but you know what? Who cares! It's creating a dialogue, forcing people to imagine and create their own interpretations, and that is a beautiful thing. The third act is surprising (although the title kind of gives it away...) and it does feel disjointed, but I think it's better than the "normal" ending that is expected. After all of that build-up, an escape would just be such a let-down. The ending is exciting and filled with non-stop energy. I spent the whole movie feeling like I couldn't breathe because of suffocation, and then the ending had the opposite effect - I was breathing too quickly, but not taking in any air. I even warned a friend of mine who has problems with asthma that he probably shouldn't watch this movie. That's how intense it is.

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