A Review of 10 Cloverfield Lane
By now, you’ve no doubt heard that 10 Cloverfield Lane is not really a sequel to 2008’s hit found-footage monster classic Cloverfield.
It isn’t, and that’s OK. From what I understand, the suits in charge of green-lighting this one wouldn’t go ahead with it unless it was tied to that film, so the producers decided to set this “in the same world” as Cloverfield. Marketing trickery? Maybe, but again, I’m OK with that because a great film got made as a result.
Cloverfield, (far superior to the recent Godzilla, and don’t even get me started on that awful 1998 version!) in my opinion, didn’t need a sequel. In such a franchise-driven movie culture, it’s refreshing to have a “one and done” film. Kind of a throwback, really. Now, perhaps there will one day be a direct continuation of the Cloverfield story, but I hope not.
The same goes for 10 Cloverfield Lane. The story in this film could be continued, but I hope it isn’t. It’s a terrific film just as it is – a tense, taut thriller with some dandy horror elements!
Lane stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Michelle, a woman who, weary of her failing relationship, decides to leave her boyfriend and drives off amid strange reports of rolling blackouts. Distracted by the reports over the radio, she is involved in a serious car accident on a Louisiana backroad. Hours later she comes to in a basement room, hooked up to an IV. The room resembles one of those terrifying dungeons we see on so many news reports where women were imprisoned for years after being kidnapped by a creepy older dude. (why do they always look like they could be from the same family, somehow?)
Soon we meet Howard. Sure enough, he’s a creepy, middle aged dude – brilliantly played by John Goodman. His Howard is a lurking bear of a man, and positively obsessed with survival prep, the kind that we also see on so many TV shows and news reports. Has Howard captured Michelle to fulfill his own perverted fantasies, or is he her savior, protecting her from a world that has suffered an apocalyptic disaster?
Either way, Howard has spent years building an impressive underground bunker. He is well-stocked with food and supplies – enough to last years. Whatever the man’s intentions are, Michelle is going to be stuck with him until the bitter end. Howard is convinced that the air on the surface is now lethal, and she is unable to persuade him otherwise.
To say anything further about the plot would risk spoiling it for those who haven’t seen it. The director does a masterful job with an excellent script, building the suspense and continually ratcheting up the tension, tossing in some humorous moments for levity before gut-punching you with sequences that run the gamut from white-knuckle suspense to raw horror.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead does a brilliant job at portraying a tough, smart female lead. Her Michelle reminded me of Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley. Michelle is anything but a victim, despite being hopelessly imprisoned by John Goodman’s Howard. She uses her fists when needed, and is always using her head in scene after scene as she tries to outwit her captor and break free from the bunker.
John Goodman (finally!) is allowed to be the male lead in a film, and man – does he ever make the most of it! Genius in all of his supporting roles, Goodman applies those same skills to his lead role here. His Howard is equal parts unhinged madman and misunderstood good Samaritan. Few actors could walk this delicate line so convincingly. Personally, I think he deserved an Oscar, but that’s a discussion for another time.
As for the plot, I really enjoyed how the cat-and-mouse game between the main characters unfolded, and I particularly enjoyed the ending, which has been a source of some controversy among fans of not only Cloverfield, but of films like this in general. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend 10 Cloverfield Lane. Decide for yourself if you like it all the way through to the end, as I did. If you were a fan of the monster movie predecessor to this, you may be disappointed. Or not. In regards to the ending of Lane, I felt it had a similar tone and feel as Cloverfield. It really does feel like the same world to me. But I really like that this film is not that film, or that story.
Both Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane are great stand-alone films – for different reasons.
I hope Hollywood keeps them that way.