JJ Abrams is good at keeping secrets. This movie was under the radar until the trailers a few weeks ago. I don’t think they even revealed the title until about the same time. 10 Cloverfield Lane is clearly a nod to the film Cloverfield, which led everyone to speculate about whether this is a sequel, a prequel, or related somehow. Well, this is not really any of those, and yet it is – sort of. Is that vague enough for you? One thing that’s clear, though, I dug it.
After a car accident, a woman wakes up in a basement room. She is in a bunker being kept there by two men who tell her that the outside world is now uninhabitable because the air has been poisoned by some kind of chemical attack.
10 Cloverfield Lane is kind of two movies in one. On one hand, it’s like this thriller about a woman in captivity. She has to deal with the danger of her situation and her “captor”. But then there is the uncertainty the actual nature of said situation. This woman, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), wakes up after a car crash and has no idea where she is, thinking – because it sure looks like – she’s been kidnapped by some nut job, Howard, played unsettlingly by John Goodman.
There’s another man, younger, Emmet (John Gallagher, Jr.), who is also there, but it turns out he wanted to be there. And “there” is an underground bunker built by Howard with Emmet’s help. Howard comes across as one of those conspiracy theory nuts that is always preparing for the worst – no matter how crazy the scenario sounds. Emmet is one of those guys that never left his little town and his naivete’ causes him to believe pretty much anything Howard says.
But events lead us to question Howard. He seems threatening enough to maybe be full of shit and maybe he just abducted these two people. But then, we see things – real events – that MIGHT actually give credence to Howards’ paranoia that some kind of chemical event – either an attack by terrorists, aliens, or even the Russians – has taken place and killed most of humanity. Howard claims there is no one left outside to call, no way to go outside and survive more than a matter of hours because of whatever crazy World War III scenario has played out above their heads.
10 Cloverfield Lane deftly weaves all this doubt and keeps up guessing. Is she kidnapped? Is there really some kind of attack happening? We don’t know any more than she does. And we find out the answers when she does, too. First time feature director Dan Trachtenberg does a fine job building the tension, then letting it relax occasionally to let these people talk and get to know each other – allowing us to do the same. But then – BAM – the tension ratchets up again. Also first-timers are two of the three the writers here. Josh Campbell and Matthew Stueken are credited for the story, while the screenplay is them, plus Damien Chazelle who wrote and directed Whiplash. Is that a punch-up guy I see? Either way, it worked out for the best.
The acting is solid – and again, John Goodman is amazing here. He plays this character so well. He SEEMS like a normal guy most of the time, but sometimes he has this menace simmering underneath. You just don’t know which side of those he’ll fall on. This may be my favorite of all his performances.
And obviously you spend most of the film wondering where it’s all going to land, and when it does, it’s exciting and pretty satisfying. At least it was for me. I enjoyed 10 Cloverfield Lane. I’m seriously giving this a solid four kittenhands. I can definitely recommend this one.
Now – that being said, there is just ONE small element that I keep thinking about. It COULD alter how good I feel this film is. I’d love a CFN Spoiler Episode on this because I really want to talk about this one thing that could be a big hole in it. BUT, still go see it. It’s fun.
~ Neil T Weakley, your average movie-goer, REALLY wanting to see Midnight Special!