by Sherry Lipp
WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS
The less you know about 10 Cloverfield Lane the more fun it will be to watch. The film relies on the viewer knowing no more than its protagonist Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) as the story moves along. Producer J.J. Abrams has called 10 Cloverfield Lane a “blood relative” of the 2008 monster movie Cloverfield, but it is not a direct sequel. This film is more of a psychological thriller than strict horror and in that respect the film does a good job. It’s only when it dips back into its monster movie roots that it falters.
After Michelle wakes up in a barren concrete room following a car accident she is faced with the end of her world as she knows it. Her captor, or rescuer as he puts it, Howard (John Goodman), tells her there has been some kind of massive attack that has killed everybody she knows and contaminated the air. Howard’s story is confirmed by his other bomb-shelter guest Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), a contractor who helped Howard build the place. Emmett headed straight there at the first sign of the apocalypse, a bright red light unlike anything he’d ever seen before.
Michelle finds it all hard to believe, but when she’s confronted with what seems like irrefutable truth she settles in. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a testament to the human ability to adapt to any situation. Maybe Michelle hadn’t planned on living with a couple of strangers in a bunker that she can’t get out of, but she had been trying to get away from it all. Maybe that’s part of the reason she’s so willing to accept her situation. Right before the accident she had left her boyfriend and was headed off to a new life. A new life is exactly what she got.
As far as being trapped goes, it’s not so bad. They have plenty of food, a bathroom, a shower, television, and even a jukebox that spits out golden oldies on a regular basis. The problem is Howard seems just a little off-kilter. He’s always talking about his long lost daughter Megan and it starts to become clear he thinks of Michelle as a surrogate. The question becomes whether Howard is just a survivalist who is very well-prepared or is he holding Michelle and Emmett hostage.
Despite the dead pigs in the yard, and the sickly neighbor who comes pounding at their door, Howard’s end of the world story becomes harder and harder to believe. Bit by bit, the threat inside the shelter starts to become greater than the one outside and Michelle is faced with an impossible dilemma. She needs to get out, but has no idea what the outside world holds.
The film expertly builds tension and creates an unnerving situation that seems impossible to get out of. The suspense is in how Michelle will get herself out of this, if she even can. Goodman does an excellent job of balancing his weirdness with rationality that it’s impossible to know exactly where he’s coming from.
It’s a fun ride until the end when the film becomes something else entirely. We know something’s going on and that’s fine. Aliens have taken over and are spraying some kind of chemical through the air to kill the surviving humans. That’s all we really need to know. After everything we’ve just been through, seeing Michelle fight aliens seems tacked on and pointless. Personally, I don’t think the alien thing fits this movie at all, but if it had to be there, then I think something a little more simple would have worked better. Maybe she finds a way to escape and then gets to make the same decision to join the rebellion at the end.
Ending aside, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a fun movie to watch and still do recommend it. It’s not as high of a recommendation as it would have had if it wasn’t for the ridiculous ending, but still worth the time.