The initial scenes in the psychological thriller “10 Cloverfield Lane” feels fresh and innovative. Like a zigsaw puzzle, images are twirled around in the frame mimicking emotional unsteadiness. Silently, we follow our protagonist Michelle ( Mary Elizabeth Winstead ) as she checks her cell phone, packs and zips her bag, and leaves her rings on the table. These images are quite effective in showing a young woman leaving her life and marriage behind. She is filled with purpose , a runaway in a getaway car. She listens to her husband’s voice-message pleas for twenty-nine seconds, but does not pick up. She shows awareness of her surroundings. A late night gas station and headlights cause her pause. This is a savvy woman, careful, deliberate and determined.
On the road again, she hears the truck before the crash. The impact is expertly filmed in both slow motion and quick flashes. We see her car flip over and spin off the road into a culvert. The next scene has her on a floor pallet with an i.v. in her arm and a brace on her knee. She tries to move, but we see that she is handcuffed to the cinder block wall.
She is a fighter, a planner and not likely to succumb to the whims of a conspiracy theorist ( John Goodman) with twisted needs. Like t.v.’s “The Bates Hotel”, superb acting keeps you watching despite the silly “four-movies-in-one ” storyboard line. Tension is built, and it seems familiar. Air duct runs, knife pokes, and freedom lead to humanitarian work in Houston. But not until an alien encounter with an eye-telescoping reptilian and a hastily made Molotav cocktail are thrown into the mix.
Produced by J.J. Abrams and a directorial debut by Dan Trachtenberg, “10 Cloverfield Lane” gives its best line to Michelle’s fellow prisoner Emmett DeWitt ( John Gallagher, Jr.) “Howard has a black belt in conspiracy theories.” A bloody earring leaves us with theories of our own.
What we end up with is super girl power akin to that of “Hunger Games” and “Star Wars” and “Mad Max”. I have a friend who refuses to see “women as victim ” movies. I wonder how long it will take for millennials to cringe at ” women as savior combatants”. Alien monsters and vats of acid be damned: this movie loses its innovative touch a third of the way through and reverts to slasher film antics and disaster film airs. See it for an example of what happens to an almost art film that tries to include every germ in the kitchen sink. Get out the scouring powder, guys.