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Monthly Archives: May 2016

Complete coincidence, really, that just after I saw “Midnight Special”, with director and cast from “Take Shelter”, I saw “10 Cloverfield Lane”. Reminded me all the more painful of the differences in style and quality, and also the intensity of acting you can find these days not so much in the likes of John Goodman anymore, but always when it comes to Michael Shannon.

Less intensely maybe than in the previous Nichols film, but also always on edge, Shannon tries to get a boy into safety after removing him from some form of doomsday sect. This is a violent endeavor, the sect does not abandon what they consider their savior lightly, but the stakes could not be higher, everybody seems to think. The boy himself is not so sure about his identity or importance. He knows he has powers, and that he has to wear swimming goggles most of the time to keep himself from doing harm to others. But only near the end of the film does he get a concept of who he is and what he is supposed to be doing.

This direction of the plot aimed at a “reveal” is at the heart of the film, and at the same time to me a completely underwhelming plot device. Even if nobody had ever cared to explain what that boy’s powers are exactly and where they stem from, I would not have cared. The quality of the film is in the quest for safety, the machinations of those forces that want to lay their hands on him, the unquestioning love of his family. Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst and Joel Edgerton can give it their all, Adam Driver can contribute his eerie usual self, and you have a tense thriller of sorts. With the resolution, you suddenly have a toe dipping into mythological questions, and really to no visible avail. It seems no coincidence that towards the end there is a lot of dialogue about the nature and origin of the boy, but very little about the consequences. “So what?” – is what I shouted …

So somebody really liked “Take Shelter” (and who wouldn’t?) and also got the right to use the word “Cloverfield” in the title for a film. John Goodman is available. These ingredients almost automatically lead to exactly the film that “10 Cloverfield Lane” is. While the premise is absolutely fascinating, nothing of surprise or magic comes out of it. A girl finds herself caught in an underground shelter where her “host” claims to have taken her after he crashed into her car during a catastrophic event of sorts. He has always been obsessed with this shelter, has dedicated his life to “being prepared”. The two of them, plus a guy who helped build the shelter, are stuck there, and for an unclear amount of time.

Does John Goodman’s character lie to keep them trapped? Is he just batshit crazy? Is there any way to find out for sure what happened and what had not?

Everything plays out the way you expect it to play out, every twist of character and turn of events is 100 per cent predictable. This is sad, of course, because a film where you are locked up with John Goodman for two hours (i.e. a couple of days or weeks) should be interesting. As it is, it has some shocker moments, but leaves that bad taste in your mouth that you have after eating something you did not really want to eat in the first place…


Within the first couple of minutes if “The Invitation” you understand what director Kusama is doing. She is setting up Will as the skeptic or even the paranoid guy who cannot just enjoy the party he and his old buddies have been invited to, but smells a rat around every gesture. We assume that we have to play along and assume that the director and author want us to assume that we think he is wrong about all this, because it would be so obvious, which again would lead us to believe that he is right about all this, which again might be reason enough to doubt it … so you have to decide which side you are on: is Will just a party pooper, or is there something going on that puts all the guests in danger? The experienced cinema audience will realise that whenever John Caroll Lynch gets invited to the party, there is a maniac or at least a child molester around, no? Will David play some music in the end (loved Treme!), or will he kill everybody and serve them to his guru for dinner? So you got your clues, and need to put the pieces together before the reveal comes, for maximum satisfaction.

You can only play this game for a while, then it gets boring. “The Invitation” does ok in deciding when to stop playing and start getting serious. But then again, once you stop playing, you change genre, and you either end up in Bunuelian social drama (guests discussing their relationship issues over dessert) or a slasher film. Both options are not very appealing unless very well done. If you only start doing them halfway through a film, what are the chances of getting it right?

So this is a bit of several genres, with nice ideas and very good actors, but then again, the film never reaches perfection in either genre. As soon as the truth about the setup has been revealed, the whole thing deflates quite a bit, and not even the strong hands of John Caroll Lynch can rescue it completely.

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