10 Cloverfield Lane Drama

'10 Cloverfield Lane' Film Review: Good things come in mysterious packages

March 11, 2016Ben MK

Where, oh where, to begin with 10 Cloverfield Lane? Is producer J.J. Abrams' surprise sequel to 2008's Cloverfield really just that, or is it more of a spiritual successor? Does it involve a giant, alien Cthulhu? And just how crazy is John Goodman's character, really? These are but a few of the questions moviegoers might have going into the movie; and rest assured, by the time the end credits roll, some — but not all — of them will have been answered.

A film populated by only three characters, 10 Cloverfield Lane stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Michelle, a woman in the midst of leaving her significant other. Where she's headed is anybody's guess. But before she can get there, her car is violently wrecked; and when she awakens, she finds herself on her own in a makeshift underground bunker, an IV needle poking out of her arm and her leg manacled to the wall. She isn't alone for long, however, for soon a stranger named Howard (John Goodman) appears, to inform her of the dire situation.

According to Howard, he's just saved her life, as a chemical or nuclear attack has rendered the air above them not only completely unbreathable, but so toxic that even the slightest exposure is enough to cause one's flesh to burn. But there's an upside, since Howard always anticipated something like this might happen. That's why he built his bunker, which has enough rations — not to mention board games, magazines and movies — for them to survive until the fallout dissipates. All they need to do is sit tight and wait it out — for the next one or two years.

Not surprisingly, Michelle is a little more than skeptical. After all, Howard is the kind of guy who has "wacky conspiracy theorist" written all over him, which makes it all the more confusing when she meets Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), Howard's neighbor who's also holed up in there with them, and who claims to be an eyewitness to the attack. Could Howard's proclamation that doomsday has arrived be genuine? Or are Michelle and Emmett simply being held hostage by a madman? More importantly, can they afford to sit idly by until the truth is revealed?

Masterfully directed by first-time feature director Dan Trachtenberg and scripted by Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken and Damien Chazelle, 10 Cloverfield Lane is many things, including a first-rate thriller with no shortage of heart-stopping moments, a suspenseful mystery and an intensely-acted character drama. What it isn't, however, is a large-scale, POV-style action-adventure, ditching the urban, post-apocalyptic setting of the first Cloverfield in favor of one that may or may not be post-apocalyptic, but which is most definitely much more claustrophobic.

It's a film that exudes an enormous amount of atmosphere and tension, where you never know what will happen next; and its third-act revelation will no doubt catch all but the most attuned viewers completely off-guard. Above all else, though, it's a movie that's best experienced with as little precursory knowledge as possible. Make no mistake, if you're a Cloverfield fan who has high expectations for this follow-up, the result certainly lives up to the hype. But if you're approaching it with zero preconceptions, 10 Cloverfield Lane will absolutely blow you away.

10 Cloverfield Lane releases March 11th, 2016 from Paramount Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for thematic material including frightening sequences of threat with some violence, and brief language. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 45 Mins.

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