REVIEW: ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ Highlighted By Acting, Claustrophobic Atmosphere

Since it’s right in the title, I’ll address the elephant in the room first. For those thinking this might be a sequel to the 2008 giant monster movie “Cloverfield,” you’re out of luck. The J.J. Abrams produced “10 Cloverfield Lane” has nothing to do with the creature that attacked New York City and does not serve as a sequel.

Instead, this film acts as a sort of anthology successor, maintaining the same mysterious tone of other Abrams’ pictures while still being its own film.

The movie starts off with a quick introduction of the protagonist, Michelle, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who has decided to leave her fiance. On the way out of town, though, she is caught in a car accident on the highway.

When Michelle wakes up after her accident, she finds that she’s been taken to an underground bunker by a man named Howard (John Goodman), who tells the hero that there’s been an attack and it’s unsafe to go out. Along with Howard and Michelle in the bunker is Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), a man who helped Howard build the bunker and sought shelter when the supposed attack took place.

Director Dan Trachtenberg, who is new to the feature length film game, masterfully builds a great ‘no exit’ genre thriller. Much of the film has so much raw tension and suspense that it makes you squirm and yet you can’t look away.

Tranchtenberg’s main approach is a back and forth between the psychology of Goodman’s character and what could be in the outside world that the protagonist has to hide from, which raises the level of dread since it feels like there’s no way out.

For much of the movie I was on the edge of my seat and thoroughly enjoyed the well crafted, claustrophobic unease that the movie delivered. Then the ending happened. Without spoiling what happens in the film’s grand finale, I’ll just say that while the big reveal was fine, the execution wasn’t.

The movie’s final 15 minutes felt so jarring, almost like it was a different film entirely. It was hard to take seriously and felt out of place with the type of drama and suspense that had been building for the entire run time. On top of feeling out of place, “10 Cloverfield Lane” had already practically finished the protagonist’s arc by a certain point and the ending simply felt tacked on.

As for the cast, the one who steals every scene is Goodman. He’s always been a good character actor and it shows here because he perfectly portrays a man who may or may not be out of his mind or telling the truth. As the film goes along and the tension builds, Goodman’s performance is key, as he never lets on what his character will do next or what the overall motive is.

Winstead, meanwhile, completely holds her own and delivers her best performance to date. She manages to balance the mental stress her character is going through, whether its looking for clues as to what’s going on or scheming to possibly make an escape.

Then there’s Gallagher Jr. playing Emmett. While much of the movie character-wise is driven by the back and forth between Howard and Michelle, Gallagher Jr.’s performance does offer some slight breaks in tension. It’s not done by way of comic relief, but instead his screen time provides a more sane character for Michelle to speak with.

“10 Cloverfield Lane” has a lot going for it and I’d say I loved about 85 percent of it. That ending, though, really threw me for a loop and it will likely be a make or break factor for most audiences. More or less, I enjoyed the journey, didn’t care for the destination, so 3 out of 5.


Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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