10 Cloverfield Lane ★★★★


10 Cloverfield Lane runs like clockwork. Beginning with a simple, Hitchcockian setup (complete with a Herrmann-esque score that kicks all sorts of ass), Dan Trachtenberg's debut feature lays out its mysteries like a jigsaw puzzle, building up the inner geography of the main location while allowing a few pieces to go missing, ratcheting up tension as a result. As an economical narrative, it's flawless, playing with rich, interesting characters in an enclosed space, and every frame is still, watching and planning the next move. It's a claustrophobic pot boiler oozing with riddles, and the conclusion, while feeling somewhat reminiscent of a studio stumbling in all "Night of the Living Dead" like with their profit-minded egos, feels part of a singular sci-fi yarn, no matter the history or development.

And although it indeed plays marvelously as a complete story (and what a story!), some individual components are worthy of endless, boundless praise. That sound design? My god. Un-fucking-real. A piece of the puzzle that couldn't be taken away without immense damage to the overall quality. Even besides the obvious highlights (man oh man the opening credits), even slight acts and gestures have their own distinct noise or clunk. By the middle of 10 Cloverfield Lane, you're recoiling at the sound of a metal door. And the cast? There won't be a better trio in the movies this year. John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and John Gallagher Jr. are startling talents on their own, but they play off each other in wonderfully unexpected and freakish ways. Goodman, in particular, brings terrifying doses of supposed "respect" and anguish to a part that is absolutely integral.

In essence, this blood relative, spin-off thing (?) is an early highlight of 2016. Built and fed by alarming suspense and editing like its life depended on it, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a stunning meat and potatoes experience. Actors. Locations. Relationships. Shit goes down. I'll take 5 more of these please.

Totally rad.

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