10 Cloverfield Lane plays its cards as ambiguously as its title, from start to finish. But it is a decently performed psychological thriller.
A woman who is fleeing from her ex-boyfriend finds herself driven off the road and knocked unconscious. When she wakes she finds herself captive to a strange man deep in an underground bunker he built. Despite her being handcuffed to the wall, he claims it is for her own good… that the world above no longer exists…
It is going to be hard to review this without spoilers. Producer JJ Abrams has nebulously attached the name Cloverfield to the film and given it a subtle trailer for a reason; is 10 Cloverfield Lane connected to Cloverfield, the 2008 sci-fi found footage disaster movie he also produced? So if you would rather go into the film knowing nothing at all (like I did, it is better that way!) stop reading and know that it is a good movie; a slow build of psychological tension around John Goodman’s character.
Now onto the complicated stuff.
10 Cloverfield Lane is a breed of film I generally quite enjoy. Films with narrow focus on a small cast with larger things at stake. We follow Mary Elizabeth Winstead, playing Michelle, a young seamstress who finds herself “imprisoned” by Howard (John Goodman) who seems to be holding back truths, lies and secrets from her. While in moments he seems genuine in his protection of her, he acts dangerously and behaves socially lost at other times… the audience is in a constant battle for most of the film as to what Howard’s real intentions really are.
But they aren’t alone, in the bunker with them is Emmett (John Gallagher Jr) who apparently worked on the bunker with Howard and chose to be inside with him.
Nothing and no one can be trusted. The film does wonders in projecting the exact feelings that Michelle would be feeling (memories of this year’s Room came flooding back!) The audience is given enough evidence that doesn’t overwhelm or undermine the mystery.
It is a slow build, and some audiences might think it is too slow. It is all about unravelling John Goodman’s Howard and getting answers as to what is or isn’t happening outside the bunker; the entire film is devoted to this.
This isn’t Cloverfield. This isn’t a hi-octane sci-fi disaster movie. It is a taut, character driven thriller. You couldn’t ask for a more different experience.
It has every hallmark of a low-rent sci-fi movie. Limited scope, characters, relying on mystery to keep you hooked. As a 12A in the UK, the film isn’t super gory or horrific. Although when things escalate, there are some nasty moments. Please don’t bring your small children to see it.
People might be disenfranchised afterwards if they expect something exactly the same as Cloverfield, the title almost feels like a namedrop just for marketing.
I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t care much for Cloverfield, but 10 Cloverfield Lane is completely different, and had me intrigued for the whole runtime.