10 Cloverfield Lane is a thrilling drama/horror movie that is NOT about giant aliens to the surprise of many. Don’t hype yourself up to see the sequel to Cloverfield because that’s not what this is. However, don’t let that prevent you from seeing this freaking awesome movie. It’s an instant hit and has received deservedly high reviews – a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8/10 on IMDb. So, what’s the big deal about this mysterious movie that’s NOT about huge, scary aliens?
Much like the first Cloverfield, this film takes the audience for a wild ride. The story begins when Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wakes up in an underground bunker after a horrific car accident. We are introduced to her alleged “rescuer,” Howard (John Goodman). He claims a widespread attack has left the outside world uninhabitable and Michelle should be “grateful” that he saved her. Michelle is determined to escape the bunker at all costs, but first, she must find out the truth about Howard and what awaits her outside the bunker.
Interestingly enough, the script was not initially written as part of the Cloverfield anthology. This helps the movie rather than hurts it in my opinion. Instead of churning out another stereotypical alien movie, the writers took a thrilling and brilliantly crafted a story and incorporated it into the Cloverfield universe. The result is a combination of increasingly horrific scenarios that will keep you on the edge of your seat from the opening credits to the very last scene.
If you’re like me, and you don’t typically enjoy thrillers or horror movies, I urge you to step out of your comfort zone for 10 Cloverfield Lane. Not going to lie, I totally lose my cool when I watch suspenseful movies. I spend most of the time hiding behind various extremities. I had to apologize to my poor friend sitting next to me because I flailed wildly and elbowed him in the stomach many times throughout this movie. (Sorry again, Michael.) However, the incredible script and the performances that brought it to life made the experience totally worth it.
The characters are complicated, tragic, and totally believable. The movie is centered around the three-person dynamic between the characters in the bunker – Michelle, Howard, and Emmett. I have nothing negative to say about any of their performances. John Gallagher, Jr., who plays Emmett, quickly won the heart of the audience through his quirky sense of humor. Also, John Goodman knocked this role out of the park. I spent the entire movie trying to figure out whether or not Howard was their savior or their kidnapper – or possibly both. It’s John Goodman, so naturally you want to love his character, but his portrayal of Howard will make your skin crawl.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead was also fantastic in her portrayal of Michelle. It’s refreshing to see a female protagonist in this genre who’s not utterly helpless. Michelle is smart and determined but has vulnerable moments. Much of her character is revealed through her nonverbal reactions to the impossible circumstances she finds herself in. She doesn’t make stupid decisions to further the plot and up the suspense. On the rare occasions when I subject myself to thrillers or horror movies, I always find myself yelling at the characters in frustration (which, arguably, is part of the fun). Instead, I was repeatedly impressed with Michelle’s resourcefulness in 10 Cloverfield Lane.
The audience is also given the opportunity to guess what Michelle’s going to do next. For example, a close-up of the keys on Howard’s belt alerts the audience that Michelle is planning to escape. In another scene, the camera lingers on a spray Howard uses to freeze his drink, implying it will be useful later on. By far my favorite example is the seemingly insignificant bottle of alcohol in Michelle’s apartment shown during the opening scene that comes back in a totally badass way at the end. There’s a lot of build-up in this movie, and when the tension finally breaks, everything is tied together seamlessly due to the inclusion of these brief shots.
10 Cloverfield Lane is a unique combination of horrific situations, and the audience is willing to suspend their disbelief further than normal for this film. Being kidnapped and trapped in a bunker is unimaginable, but what awaits outside the bunker is equally terrifying. The combination of these scenarios makes for an incredible rollercoaster ride in the theater that you won’t want to miss.
10 Cloverfield Lane is currently playing in regular and IMAX theaters.