10 Cloverfield Lane

Creepy, frightening and suspenseful. Imagine being held prisoner in an underground bunker by a doomsday prepper who tells you that you should be grateful because he saved your life! 10 Cloverfield Lane provides thrills and chills and keeps you wondering.

Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is driving on a lonely road on a dark Louisiana night, having left the city and her boyfriend. Suddenly her car is hit. When she awakens, she finds herself in a room with concrete block walls. She is receiving an IV drip and she is handcuffed to the wall.

Soon she meets her rescuer/captor Howard (John Goodman) who tells her that she was lucky to have been brought to the shelter because everyone else is dead. Well, except Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), a good ol’ boy who doesn’t seem quite as panicked about being underground as Michelle is.

What’s the story? Has there been a nuclear attack? Chemical weapons? Aliens? Or… does Howard just have an active, paranoid imagination? Is he a protector? Is he to be feared? Or is he a guy whose military training has prepared him for fateful, factual end times? And what exactly happened to his daughter Megan? Lots of questions!

10 Cloverfield Lane is a suspense thriller. Like some of Hitchcock’s best works it presents an ordinary person in an extraordinary situation, one where things are not what they seem to be. First time feature director Dan Trachtenberg has delivered an efficient movie that doesn’t waste a frame.

The setting inside the underground bunker recalls the shed in last year’s Room where a young woman and her son went imprisoned. But the abode in Cloverfield has several rooms. Claustrophobia is an issue but the real concern for Michelle and Emmett is Howard and his unpredictability.

Winstead (best known, to me at least, as Ramona Flowers in 2010’s Scott Pilgrim Versus The World) is perfect as a woman whose survival depends on quick thinking while constantly reevaluating her situation. Goodman as the alternately threatening and comforting Howard is an enigma whose ultimate playbook can only be guessed at until the film’s climax. Gallagher (who looks like the guy who played Chuck on TV but isn’t) has little opportunity to shine.

FYI—10 Cloverfield Lane has nothing to do with the 2008 film Cloverfield except for the fact that J.J. Abrams served as a producer for both.

If you’re up for some creepy fun, 10 Cloverfield Lane brings it. But remember, when you’re telling your friends about it, no spoilers!

 

Room

Room is the kind of film some will not find appealing. The subject matter is rough. But superlative acting and a hopeful outlook are good reasons to see and appreciate Room, a movie that will certainly garner multiple award nominations.

Joy (Brie Larson) is a prisoner in a shed she calls Room. It’s in a backyard behind a home in a normal American urban neighborhood. She was captured when she was 17. Larson offers one of the bravest performances seen in some time. Extreme close-ups of her unmade-up face reveal the raw sadness of her situation. Yet, because of her son, she maintains a glimmer of optimism.

Her son is Jack (Jacob Tremblay), fathered by the man holding her captive, a man she calls Old Nick (Sean Bridgers). Jack is a bright 5-year-old with a great spirit. His knowledge of the outside world is limited to what his mother tells him and what he sees on a TV with bad reception. This child will touch your emotions.

Their existence is dispiriting. A toilet, a bathtub, a sink, a toaster oven, a space heater, a bed, a lamp or two and… that’s about it. A skylight above lets in a bit of daylight.

Jack pretends to be asleep in the wardrobe when Old Nick visits for his assignations with his captive.

Joy cooks up a bold plan to get the two of them out of Room. With Jack’s help, it works.

The grim circumstance of life in Room is unimaginable. But director Lenny Abrahamson, working from Emily Donoghue’s script, makes the minimal living space real. Life after the escape from Room is challenging to all in different ways.

The adjustment to the outside world is especially difficult for Joy. Her divorced parents Bob (William H. Macy) and Nancy (Joan Allen) are initially supportive, but dad can’t abide the situation. Mom and her boyfriend Leo (Tom McCamus) work to get Joy and Jack back on track.

Larson’s talent was revealed in 2013’s acclaimed but generally unseen Short Term 12. She was Amy Schumer’s sister in this summer’s Trainwreck. Her work in Room has already stirred up Oscar talk. And it’s not out of the question that the 8-year-old Tremblay could be up for awards season glory.

Room may be too grim for some moviegoers to check out, but it’s likely to reinforce faith in the human spirit for all who see it. To maintain hope in the face of such a terrible situation is moving and inspiring.