Has it really been eight years since we all got woozy watching Cloverfield for the first time in hopes of finally figuring out what the heck was attacking NYC? In the time since, there has been little to no word pertaining to a sequel, except for the fact that the end credits of Cloverfield pretty much confirmed we were not done yet with its universe.
And then we got bamboozled; out of pretty much nowhere the trailer starting popping up. What was originally a film called 13 Hours became 10 Cloverfield Lane over night, and good ol’ J.J. Abrams pulled yet another fast one on us. The result of all of this secrecy is a superbly tout psychological thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat in a shroud of mystery and confusion from start to finish.
After finding herself in an underground bunker following a car accident, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) comes to learn that there has been an attack on America, that fallout is killing off survivors, and that she must wait inside the bunker for several years in order to be able to leave again. From the start, the film doesn’t tell you much—or maybe it does and you have to insert your own doubt. A sense of unease builds slowly, growing to be an unrelenting force of uncertainty, paranoia, and claustrophobia. We know as much as Michelle does, so when we meet Howard (John Goodman), her “savior,” we can’t help but go along with it, but we also can’t help but fear for her life and safety.
For those who are well aware that this is a “Cloverfield” movie, it is best to just sit back and enjoy the ride, because it is a thrilling one at that. For someone completely uninitiated, this could be an entirely different movie because there is nothing creeping at the back of their mind that would basically answer the question “What the fuck is going on with this movie?” Is it Russia? North Korea? Aliens?
With the film taking place primarily in the confines of Howard’s bunker, it plays more to the psychological than the sci-fi. Goodman is terrifyingly unnerving—made more so by the fact that he has not one iota of doubt that there is actually some bad shit going on outside. We have our doubts, of course, because it would seem like a pretty good twist for there to actually not be anything happening outside and for Howard to just be some batty loon. Winstead is solid; her resourcefulness and doubt is enough to open her eyes to the potential problems of Howard as he runs the bunker like a weird dictatorial father to their “nuclear family.” Along with Emmitt (John Gallagher Jr.), another survivor, Michelle slowly tries to make her escape in an interestingly similar way to a prison-breakout film. The movie makes for some damn fine entertainment as bluffs are called, tensions rise, and there may or may not be a catastrophic nuclear war happening outside of their bunker—all while remaining uncertain up until the final moments of the film.
Emmitt comes with the small caveat of being not as entirely fleshed out as Howard and Michelle are. He gets a minor backstory with a little development, but ultimately feels more of a plot device to add to the tension and serve as an ally to Michelle who really takes centerstage. Gallagher Jr., however, is a fine actor, offering up just a smidgen of humor in a film that is often nail-bitingly tense.
Out of the shadows came this fantastic little film, and I really hope it will be seen by more people. With some phenomenal performances—particularly by a seriously scary Goodman—10 Cloverfield Lane is more than just a blood-relative to its predecessor: it’s its superior in almost every sense of the word. Will we see another one? Who knows?
But if we do—we won’t see it coming, and I love it.