Cloverfield was a solid disaster flick, but let’s be honest. The best part about film was the incredible buildup leading to its release. Nobody can deny that Cloverfield had one of the best ad campaigns ever. After seeing the trailer, everyone wanted to find out what could have possibly beheaded the Statue of Liberty. What we ultimately got, however, was a generic giant monster. While it was still perfectly serviceable popcorn entertainment, we were all hoping for something different and unpredictable.
Now Producer J.J. Abrams is back with 10 Cloverfield Lane, which marks the directorial debut of Dan Trachtenberg. Considering that most people thought the original Cloverfield was just pretty good at best, you wouldn’t think that this film would generate too much hype. Yet, the franchise has managed to hook us all in once again thanks to ingenious marketing. Part of what’s made 10 Cloverfield Lane such a buzz-worthy project is that it’s not exactly a sequel. It’s also not a found footage movie like it’s predecessor. The commercials don’t even reveal if the Clover creature has anything to do with the picture.
You won’t find any spoilers in this review, as 10 Cloverfield Lane is such a fun movie to watch unfold. In order to give it a proper review, though, let’s discuss the basic plot. Mary Elizabeth Winstead turns in an effective lead performance as Michelle, a young woman who gets into a car accident. When she wakes up, Michelle finds herself chained in an underground cellar. She soon meets a man named Howard (John Goodman), who claims that the world has ended and that he saved her. Also in the shelter is John Gallagher Jr. as Emmet, a gullible fella who’s quick to believe doomsday has arrived. Michelle is much more skeptical, however, convinced that Howard has abducted her.
10 Cloverfield Lane calls to mind various other movies, from Misery to Room. Yet, it still manages to be a unique picture due to some convincing performances and strong pacing. The screenplay by Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, and Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) does a marvelous job at keeping the audience guessing what’s truly going on. Is certain death actually waiting outside of the cellar? Is Howard just a paranoid nut? Could this all just be a really messed up episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt? Goodman in particular strikes the perfect balance of seeming sincere one half of the time and being completely insane the other half, making you feel uneasy every step of the way.
For its first two thirds, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a stimulating psychological thriller, keeping things tight and claustrophobic. Like almost all J.J. Abrams productions, though, the final act may divide audiences. Without giving any twists away, the climax gets pretty over-the-top and even silly. While this may disappoint some people, the explanation for everything actually works in a bizarre way. As crazy as matters get, it’s still intense while also incorporating some self-aware humor. Considering that the first Cloverfield essentially delivered exactly what we expected in the end, it’s hard not to admire this spiritual follow-up for going all out. In that respect, 10 Cloverfield Lane is the movie we’ve been waiting eight years to see and it’s simply a blast.