The brilliant 2008 film Cloverfield is one of the great movies in the found-footage genre. A terrifying creature attacks New York City, while we watch through a hand-operated camera that the protagonists themselves are using to capture the events. A while into the film, something interesting occurs on the Brooklyn Bridge. Feverishly trying to document the horrifying attack while simultaneously escaping it, the character holding the camera swings it about, looking for a compelling subject. For the briefest of instances, his camera finds another camera. A man has been filming a headless Statue of Liberty, but sensing that he is being filmed, swings around to film his filmer. For the briefest of instances, two movies have intersected.
It was this moment that planted a unique idea in the mind of director Matt Reeves. In an interview, he explained, “I thought there was something interesting in the idea that this incident happened and there are so many different points of view, and there are several different movies at least happening that evening and we just saw one piece of another.”
Thus, the idea of a sequel was born, but the concept was intriguingly fresh. Instead of going forwards in time, they would go sideways. Instead of exploring what happened next, they would explore what happened simultaneously, but elsewhere. The closest contemporary parallel to this idea would be Clint Eastwood’s twin 2006 World War II films, Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima, that each explored an opposite side of the same military battle .
This was the seed that eight years later, has grown into 10 Cloverfield Lane. Several rounds of mutation and evolution occurred in the interval, and the final product is quite different from the original inspiration. Reeves, along with writer Drew Goddard and producer J J Abrams, couldn’t quite come up with an idea that would do their vision justice. Admirably, they didn’t want to repeat the style and format of the first film, so it would naturally take some time. Eventually, all parties involved were so busy with other projects that it looked like the film would be shelved. Then, in 2012, Paramount Pictures purchased a script titled The Cellar, written by Josh Campbell and Matt Stuecken. It was assigned to the Abrams-headed subsidiary Bad Robot Productions, where it was immediately cloaked in secrecy and codenamed Valencia. Damien Chazelle was brought in to do a rewrite, and subsequently direct the film. When Chazelle’s pet project Whiplash was greenlit, he dropped out, and debutant director Dan Trachtenberg signed up. It wasn’t until January 2016, a mere two months before the US release, that the details of this mysterious movie were revealed: The Cellar had been morphed into a ‘spiritual successor’ and ‘blood relative’ to Cloverfield, to be called 10 Cloverfield Lane. Even the actors hadn’t been told they were filming a sequel.
Why have I gone into such great detail about the background behind this film? You don’t need to have watched Cloverfield to appreciate 10 Cloverfield Lane, but towards the climax of the movie, the filmmakers make a decision that transforms the complexion of the story. If you don’t have the context that I just outlined, this decision may completely derail the movie for you. If you do know, however, it may enrich and even improve the experience. This won’t be a conventional review, because talking about a movie like this is dashed tricky, and I mean that in the best way possible. This is one of those films whose joy lies in discovery; any attempt to summarize or describe will diminish the experience. The writing is taut and suspenseful. The characters are memorable, and the performances (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, John Gallagher Jr.) excellent. You haven’t seen a film like this one. Do.
Overall Rating: 4/5
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