10 Cloverfield Lane is the “kind-of sequel, kind of not” to the 2008 hit film Cloverfield, starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World/A Good Day to Die Hard) and John Goodman (Argo/The Big Lebowski) with the feature film directorial debut of Dan Trachtenberg (Portal: No Escape).
While not a direct sequel, 10 Cloverfield Lane feels right to be called a “blood relative” to the found footage monster horror hit. Mary Elizabeth Winstead turns in an incredible performance as Michelle, a car crash survivor that is found by John Goodman’s character, Howard. John Gallagher, Jr. (The Newsroom) also puts in a fantastic performance as Emmett.
Goodman and Winstead turn in amazing performances as Howard and Michelle.
While the original Cloverfield was done as a “found footage film” a la, The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a sensational psychological thriller, with enough twists and suspense to leave you satisfied when you leave the theater.
A solid chunk of the film takes place in a small, dingy, underground nuclear bunker, giving a claustrophobic feel to the film. The film is accompanied with a score by Bear McCreary (The Walking Dead/Battlestar Galactica) that during key moments of the film, had me on the edge of my seat. Some of the best parts of this film are where the dialogue takes a back seat to music and the performance of the actors, making the scenes way more intense.
For a first time director, Dan Trachtenberg definitely puts forward the idea that he’s done this a million times already, and I’m very eager to see what he puts out next. Story-wise, I shouldn’t reveal too much as going in blind to this film, like I did, will greatly benefit the storytelling process. However, there is spoilery review below talking about key plot points of the film. So read this, bookmark it, go see the film and then come back.
Please be warned, clicking the line below will reveal the next part of the review and will contain huge plot points of the film, so please proceed at your own risk.
Spoiler! Don't click until you've seen the movie! Or don't care.
The entire opening scene where we see Michelle packing up and leaving her fiancee was an amazing start to the film. Zero dialogue was said, yet you still were able to feel the intensity of the scene as if you could hear what was being said. When she receives the call from Ben, it’s actually Bradley Cooper! Michelle’s car crash scene also gave me quite a fright when it was inter-cut between the loud noises of the crash and the silence of the titles. Flash forward to Michelle waking up inside the bunker. You really felt her stress purely from Winstead’s performance. She gave a sense of panic and confusion of not knowing where is was. John Goodman gives a very bi-polar performance, as we see two sides to Howard. The gentle giant that wants everyone to get along, and the psychotic controlling father figure. Emmett is the guy that helped build the bunker, and isn’t there against his will, rather just to be safe from the possible virus in the air outside. Emmett is definitely the comic relief in this film, and his humor doesn’t feel forced (Seriously, if you haven’t seen John Gallagher, Jr in The Newsroom, he is easily one of the funniest parts to that show).
Dinner time is always an awkward affair with those pesky above ground noises during a possible nuclear fallout.
A lot of backstory happens here, including the revelation that Howard is a conspiracy theorist, and considers the options for the outside world to be either a nuclear fallout or an alien invasion. But when the topic of zombies is brought up by Emmett, even that’s a little too far fetched for old Howard (Seriously, you believe in aliens, but zombies are too much? C’mon man). Emmett and Michelle hatch a plan to break out of the bunker once they discover that Howard had been lying to them about his daughter Maggie, and that sets in motion the plan to break out of the bunker by making a bio-hazard suit to go outside and signal for help. Things get messy when they wheel a barrel of Perchloric acid into Howard room and he reveals that he has discovered some stolen items that were used to make the suit. Emmett takes the blame, claiming he was making a weapon so he could steal Howard’s gun. Emmett apologizes and Howard accepts the apology. By blowing Emmett’s brains out with the gun. Michelle then works overtime on the suit to get it ready for her escape, however she is caught by Howard. This then triggers what I believe is the most intense part of the film, Michelle’s escape. Michelle dumps the vat of acid onto the floor, cause Howard to slip in the acid and melt away his flesh. In turn, accidentally setting off an electrical fire. She runs to grab the bio-hazard suit, and goes to escape, however is caught by Howard in the food storage area. She tips a shelving rack onto Howard and proceeds to make her escape via the air duct. Howard stabs the air ducts hoping to get a hit with the knife on Michelle. Michelle makes it to the final door, before putting on her suit and making her great escape.
Howard does not mess around when it comes to traitors.
This is where the film because a bit much. She takes the mask off, after discovering there was in fact no nuclear fallout. She jumps onto the roof of Howard’s pick up truck, and looks into the distance, seeing what looks like an alien ship (Say whatttt? Aliens? Okay maybe Howard WAS right). She goes to leave in another car, as she can’t find the keys for the truck, however, Michelle sets off the car alarm (Which was silly. Who turns their car alarm on during an alien invasion?). This triggers the alien ship to come investigate. A lot of hide and seek is played before the alien finally catches Michelle. As she’s about to be eaten though, she conveniently finds a map book, lighter and bottle of whiskey in the back of the truck and makes a Molotov cocktail and throws it into the mouth of the beast that’s about to eat her, blowing it up in the process. Michelle gets away in the car in which she set the alarm off and starts driving. While driving, she hears on the radio that there have been victories against the aliens in the south, and at the request of the voice on the radio, proceeds to go to Houston to join the fight against the aliens, and sets up a future sequel.
SUMMARY: Overall, the film is carried purely by the performances of all three leads, however the silliness and predictability of the final 20 minutes was the only complaint I have. In saying that, the film was a tense and meticulously crafted film that stands proudly alone from Cloverfield and could lead to it’s own franchise.
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