Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane Is Great Until It Isn’t
Title: 10 Cloverfield Lane
Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Screenwriter: Josh Campbell (story and screenplay), Matthew Stuecken (story and screenplay), and Damien Chazelle (screenplay)
Principal Cast: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and John Gallagher
Summary: After getting in a car accident, a woman is held in a shelter by two men, who claim the outside world is affected by a widespread chemical attack.
There are many things that make 10 Cloverfield Lane an interesting movie. There is the fact that it basically came out of nowhere a mere two months ago, which in this day and age is nearly impossible. No one knew that this movie was coming and the title immediately made people think of the movie Cloverfield from 2008. The trailer didn’t give any indication that it was a sequel, a prequel or really any indication that the movies took place in the same universe. There is also the irritating thing that comes with almost all J.J. Abrams movies in that they are nearly impossible to review because spoilers can ruin the entire movie. I was not a fan of the original Cloverfield and thought the viral marketing got a bit out of control. Abrams and his “mystery box” ideology, basically the concept of a twist, can be hit or miss for me. I went into this movie dubious to say the least.
10 Cloverfield Lane is one of those frustrating movies that works like gangbusters until it really doesn’t.
As I said this is going to be a bit of a vague review because spoiling the end of this movie is really ruining the entire movie. However, I’m in the strange position of that twist being the thing that didn’t really work for me. I seem to mostly be in the minority, though, but the thing that annoyed me was that up until that point 10 Cloverfield Lane had me on the edge of my seat. The movie opens up with Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) fleeing her fiance and running away. She gets into a violent car crash and wakes up locked in an underground bunker. Howard (John Goodman) tells her that the world has ended and that the air outside is toxic. She isn’t alone as there is a young man named Emmett (John Gallagher) that helped Howard build the bunker. It becomes very clear to Michelle that Howard might not be telling the entire truth and she needs to escape.
That’s really about the most that I can say about the movie. The movie takes place in the bunker and plays out like the first few minutes of a Fallout game as Michelle and Emmett come to realize that Howard is more unhinged than he is letting on. The thing that makes the movie work is the fact that our three leads are excellent in their respective roles. Goodman is a terrifying presence as he looms over Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher. He looks like he could break every bone in their bodies and seems inclined to do so at multiple occasions. The small environment and the lingering question about what exactly is happening on the surface make this an edge on your seat moment. That tension comes to a peak, the final reveal happens and I found myself let down.
I can’t really get into what the final reveal is or how the movie ends without ruining it (see my Spoilers, Social Media, And How To Not Be A Jerk piece to see about how to be spoiler free on the internet), and this is one you don’t want ruined. That tension that made the first ¾’s of the movie so good for me just deflated come the end and it felt extremely anti climatic. It wasn’t enough to break the movie for me, but it was enough for me to bump it down several notches. First time director Dan Trachtenberg does an excellent job with the tiny environment and making sure that we feel how claustrophobic everything becomes. The movie also abandons the found footage motif that ruined the first Cloverfield for me which was gratifying for me.
10 Cloverfield Lane feels like a movie that could have ended up in my top ten much like the extremely tense Ex Machina did last year. However, the third act reveal felt anti climactic compared to the tense ride I had been on since the beginning of the movie. This is one of those reveals that either makes or diminishes (not breaks, not for me anyway) the movie as a whole. It’s a bold choice if nothing else and I must give credit where credit is due. If you’re inclined to go see this movie I would recommend you do so sooner rather than later because “the spoilers” are out there and someone is going to try and ruin this movie for you!