Dan Trachtenberg’s 10 Cloverfield Lane stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Michelle, a young girl who has been in a horrible car accident and wakes up chained in a basement owned by Howard (John Goodman). He along with Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) tell her that there has been an attack on the outside world but they are not sure who is responsible. Is it alien or is it a rogue nation that has attacked the United States? Biological, chemical or nuclear fallout? All they know is it is safer in the bomb shelter than on the outside. Or is it?
This film was titled The Cellar for a long time because J. J. Abrams had this film in production and in total secrecy. When asked if this has anything to do with the film Cloverfield which came out in 2008. Abrams simply replied, “It is a blood cousin”. Now, for me, 2008’s Cloverfield was a painful watch. I know I am in the minority, but I am sorry, I just could not get into it. The characters were obnoxious and by 2008 I was tired of the found footage type of film making. It had been done to death and still is. So does 10 Cloverfield Lane have anything to do with the 2008 Cloverfield? Not really, but it will vary depending on the viewer. For me, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I got into 10 Cloverfield Lane and if it is a blood cousin to Cloverfield, then I am happy to say 10 Cloverfield Lane is a superior film in every way.
First time director (other than one TV episode and two short films) Dan Trachtenberg has crafted a rather Hitchcockian thriller of cat and mouse that relies on a tight script by Josh Campbell and Matthew Stuecken and immensely strong performances by Winstead and Goodman. I won’t reveal too much of the plot because it is better to be savored. This film had me intrigued from the start. Winstead’s Michelle is a smart clothes designer and John Goodman is a mentally unstable brute who may or may not be right about what is going on outside. He can be kind but can fly off of handle and become violent and threatening at the drop of a hat. After a while, our characters settle in and seem to have a good rapport with each other. Emmet and Michelle become closer and we find out Emmett had plans of his own for his future but opted to live his life “within 40 miles”. As Emmett and Michelle become closer, Howard is increasingly hostile and unstable.
10 Clovefield Lane is smart and intense film with interestingly intelligent characters that I became invested in. Their actions and dialogue are realistic, believable and help propel this film’s story and although some have criticized the last act of this film, I was hooked line and sinker. Winstead is terrific as Michelle and show why she is one of my favorite actresses working today. She is consistently smart, sexy and tough, even in bad films. She has never given a bad performance. John Goodman shows why he is one of the most versatile actors around. He is perfectly creepy as Howard, but the character is not dumb. Goodman plays Howard with just enough sanity that lends credence to his claims of what possibly awaits them on the outside, so that when he loses his cool, we believe that, too. It is a balancing act and Goodman sells it well.
At the heart of this film is its characters, but the script and direction are very tight and superbly executed. This is a solidly constructed thriller, aside from a couple of minor nitpicks, 10 Clovefield Lane is exceedingly well made, taut, exciting and worth your time.
10 Cloverfield Lane- ****1/2 out of five
10 Cloverfield Lane- Rated PG-13 for violence, language and some gore
10 Cloverfield Lane- Run Time is 103 minutes.
10 Cloverfield Lane is currently in theaters. Check your local listing for times and locations.