This review will be short not because I don’t have a lot to say about it, but viewers would be advised to know as little about it beforehand, as 10 Cloverfield Lane is full of quirks and surprises, although I will give a hint: the title doesn’t contain the word “Cloverfield” for nothing.
That film, a found-footage thing about an alien invasion of monsters, was more interesting in its delivery–shot entirely by video, much of it cell phones–than it being a good movie. 10 Cloverfield Lane doesn’t have that gimmick, and is a much better movie, the kind that will probably be around when I’m thinking of my favorite films of the year.
The premise is simple: Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a young woman who has left her boyfriend after a fight. She’s driving across Louisiana in the middle of the night when someone runs her off the road. She awakens shackled to a wall in a cinder-block basement. Is this another Saw film? No, her abductor/rescuer is John Goodman, who saved her from the wreck and is now protecting her. From what? “An attack.”
There is another member of the group, who are in a particularly well-turned out bomb shelter under Goodman’s farmhouse. He’s John Gallagher Jr. (who I read is a star of Broadway musicals), a hick who believes Goodman and helped him build the bunker. But Winstead, naturally, is suspicious, mainly because of Goodman’s great performance. He’s rational one minute, then loony. When he mentions the Russians, and then talks about Martians, you know he’s not all there, but do you dare go outside? What if he’s right?
Most of the film is a three-character drama of paranoia and trust issues. Goodman keeps mentioning a daughter, whom he presumes is dead (he thinks everyone is dead) and is concerned enough about his dinner table that he insists on coasters.Winstead, who is our eyes and ears of the film, is also great as she has to negotiate Goodman’s mania.
I won’t discuss the ending here, as that would be sacrilege. It leaves itself open for another, and I’m up for it. I will say that the film is not so much a sequel to Cloverfield as just another take on that film. There could be hundreds of films like it, and those who say it’s a new kind of franchise are right.