I’ve just seen 10 Cloverfield Lane, and must say I was pleasantly surprised by it. Granted, I haven’t had time to let the film “sink in” and form a more solid opinion, but I left the theater having felt I just saw a satisfying thriller.
I have to admit, I still haven’t seen the original Cloverfield, so I was originally going to wait to see 10 Cloverfield Lane, until I discovered it was merely a “spiritual successor” and not a direct sequel, so I wouldn’t need to see the 2008 film first.
On one hand, this is a very small scale movie. There are only three on-screen characters through the whole thing (a couple of others are heard on phones and radios, one of which being a cameo by Bradley Cooper). But the movie feels like a much bigger film due to the suspense it creates, and the effectiveness of the three aforementioned performances.
The story focuses on a woman named Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who, after a car accident, awakens in a survival bunker as the apparent captive of a man named Howard (John Goodman). But Howard claims he actually saved Michelle’s life, as a devastating attack in the surrounding area (which Howard attributes to either terrorists or martians) took place around the time of her car accident, leaving widespread devastation in the area, with the fallout leaving the air toxic.
The film often toys with the audience with the depths of Howard’s paranoia (he is, after all, a man who spent years having his doomsday bunker built). At times he seems kind and fatherly to Michelle and her fellow captive, Emmet (John Gallagher Jr.), other times he’s domineering and unhinged. The fate of the world outside may be a lie, or an exaggeration, on Howard’s part. Or there might be something to his claims.
10 Cloverfield Lane thrives on the performances, particularly those of Goodman and Winstead. And that’s what makes it work so well. We get to know the characters in a way that’s often lost in films of this nature. But 10 Cloverfield Lane is built around its handful of characters and the performances that bring them to life, making the film all the more effective.
Admittedly, I can imagine the film’s final act, and the twists involved, may prove polarizing to some audiences. But no doubt the film is bold for going in the direction it does.
I may have to check out the original Cloverfield now, even though I heard mixed things about it back in the day. But this spiritual successor has won me over, being one of the most suspenseful thrillers in recent memory, made all the better by its fantastic performances.