10 Cloverfield Lane Review
When was the last time you were genuinely surprised by a movie? In a world where trailers give away too much and scripts are leaked regularly, it’s rare to go into a theater completely blind. That is not the case with 10 Cloverfield Lane. This J.J. Abrams-produced thriller serves as a “blood relative” to the 2008 monster movie and literally no one knew it was coming until a mysterious trailer surfaced online a couple months ago. There were so many questions to be had and fortunately, we were forced to wait until the film hit theaters to get answers. In a world where people are anticipating movies that don’t come out until 2020, it’s refreshing to be caught off guard like this.
Cloverfield Lane follows Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who wakes up in an underground bunker after being in a car wreck. The owner of the bunker, a doomsday prepper named Howard (John Goodman), claims that there’s been an accident and the air outside is no longer breathable. Michelle must decide whether to stay with Howard and Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) in the bunker or try to plan her escape. I’ll leave it at that to avoid spoilers, but you get the idea. With only one main setting and such a small cast, 10 Cloverfield Lane almost feels like a play at times. It’s certainly a big departure from its shaky predecessor.
One thing the first Cloverfield film isn’t known for is its acting. The cast was made up of relative no-names at the time and each character was a typical, bland twenty-something. I would seriously give you thirty bucks if you could name any of the characters without looking it up. That’s not to say Cloverfield is a bad movie, but 10 Cloverfield Lane definitely crushes it as far as acting is concerned. With only three people sharing the screen for nearly two hours, it’s important to not have any weak links. Luckily, all three actors bring their A-game. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is the likable everywoman and John Gallagher Jr. delivers some of the film’s more comedic moments with a hint of Southern charm, but it’s John Goodman who really steals the show.
After playing a 1920’s studio executive in The Artist, a 1980’s studio executive in Argo and a 1940’s studio executive in Trumbo, it’s nice to see someone give Goodman a chance to chew up some scenery and really go nuts. It’s everything you want from a John Goodman performance. He goes from calm and collected to full on rage monster at the drop of a hat. The mystery surrounding his character quickly becomes more intriguing than whatever cataclysmic event is happening above ground, but it’s hard to tell if that’s what the writers intended.
With the name Cloverfield attached, it’s safe to say that there are alien monsters involved. I won’t spoil more than that, but I will say that this was my least favorite part of the film. Up until that moment, the movie is a tense, claustrophobic story that plays out like more of a mystery than a popcorn flick. Unfortunately, the last fifteen minutes dissolve into standard action movie fare, complete with explosions. People have speculated on whether or not this movie was always meant to be Cloverfield-related. The script was originally titled The Cellar, so it seems entirely plausible that the studio could just throw the word Cloverfield in there to increase ticket sales. I didn’t want to believe that this was the case, but it’s hard not to think about it when there’s such a disconnect between the final act and the rest of the movie. It could have been a nice twist if we weren’t already expecting it, but with a name like Cloverfield it might as well have been called This Movie Has Alien Monsters.
10 Cloverfield Lane delivers a gripping, well-written thriller and reminds us that we should never take John Goodman for granted. (Seriously, go see it just to witness one of the greatest actors of our time in action.) It may go off the rails at the end, but it’s not enough to ruin the movie. Ultimately, the biggest problem with 10 Cloverfield Lane is that it’s stuck being a Cloverfield movie.