Imagine, if you will, a young reviewer. Call him Carlos. He wakes up on a dark and rainy morning in January and scrolls through his Facebook on his phone before actually getting up. The first thing that pops up on his news feed is a trailer for a movie called 10 Cloverfield Lane. That second word immediately grabs his attention: “Cloverfield.” He thinks he’s groggy, believing that there’s no way he’d be reading about Cloverfield in 2016. Cloverfield, as in the 2008 monster movie that put found footage filmmaking on the map in the new millennium. As in the cryptic and mysterious trailer that featured no title and the Statue of Liberty’s head being thrown into the street. As in the movie that was constantly teased with a potential continuation that was never realized for the last eight years. Carlos is skeptical when he plays the trailer, thinking it has to be some hoax or parody. Upon realizing that it is real, he is immediately hooked on what could result from this bombshell of a trailer. And as it hits theaters a mere two months later, Carlos is pleasantly surprised and incredibly entertained by the final product.
10 Cloverfield Lane follows a young girl named Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). After suffering a car accident, she wakes chained to the wall of an empty cellar-like room. A mysterious man named Howard (John Goodman) informs her that he rescued her from the accident and brought her down to his underground bunker to save her from an attack that left the surface uninhabitable. The bunker also houses Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), a young man with a broken arm. Unsure of what to believe, Michelle begins living her days surviving in the bunker but slowly begins to learn that being inside the bunker is just as terrifying as whatever danger lurks outside.
I was unsure of what to expect from this film. Learning early on that the movie was, according to producer J.J. Abrams, simply a “blood relative” of the original 2008 film, I knew not to set my expectations too high on a meaningful continuation of any of the events from that movie. With that in mind, I can honestly say that I enjoyed the film for what it was: a standalone spinoff with its own story to tell.
The film immediately sets itself apart from the legacy behind its namesake by offering a remarkably original and engrossing tale. The claustrophobic setting of the bunker, where the vast majority of the film takes place, acts as the perfect catalyst for the entrapment and paranoia that are prevalent throughout its runtime. Nearly every moment within the bunker offers its own sense of terror and heart-pounding suspense as escape continues to look more and more attractive. With only three main actors visible in the movie, each one pulls his or her own weight with unparalleled skill. Winstead continues to make her mark as an underappreciated yet superb actress as she navigates her character’s status as a captive, her perpetual fear coming into play with a blend of subtlety and abundance. Goodman delivers his own stellar performance as the perfect paranoid, whose overt creepiness perfectly accentuates his innate instability. Even Gallagher Jr does well as the innocent and well-meaning third wheel trying to do the right thing. Though the film’s third act may be lost on some, featuring a mixture of rehashed sci-fi elements and general what-the-fuckery, it acts as an interesting perspective of what it means to be “Cloverfield.” With the movie leaving the many questions from its 2008 predecessor unanswered, the label acts as a Twilight Zone-esque universe where original weird plots cut from different cloths independently become their own interpretations of Cloverfield.
As a standalone movie, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a harrowing thriller not to be missed. With the name “Cloverfield,” the film is a foray into an entirely unique cinematic universe that could be the start of something special. In any case, it’s certainly worth your time to hang out in John Goodman’s bunker for a little while.