Film Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

Release Date: March 8th, 2016 (New York City Premiere)
Directed by: Dan Trachtenberg
Written by: Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken, Damien Chazelle
Music by: Bear McCreary
Cast: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr.

Bad Robot Productions, Paramount Pictures, 103 Minutes


I finally got around to seeing this. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a big fan of Cloverfield and I’m not keen on the found footage style of filmmaking. Considering that this wasn’t shot like that and that it was a different story entirely, I wanted to give it a shot. Plus, it had John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in it.

For the most part, this film takes place in one small location. It has to be a hard feat to create an engaging picture without the use of a broader environment. 10 Cloverfield Lane makes good use of its small space though. It was an entertaining movie and kept you captivated throughout.

The film only uses three actors, apart from a small scene with someone else appearing briefly. Overall, it is a very minimalist experience. But less is more with this movie, as the actors carrying the load are quite capable.

The story sees Winstead’s Michelle get into a bad car accident. She wakes up chained to a wall. Goodman’s Howard reveals himself and tells her that they are in a bunker, there is no help outside and that there was some sort of attack. Michelle fights back and doesn’t accept what Howard tells her, until she gets to the window to the outside and sees things for herself. John Gallagher, Jr. plays Emmett, an employee of Howard’s that also lives in the bunker. As time goes on, Howard becomes more and more unhinged and dangerous. Michelle and Emmett then conspire to get out of the bunker. The bulk of the film deals with getting outside and being free of Howard. However, once outside, things take a really strange twist, which is where this film becomes an extension of J.J. Abrams’ Cloverfield brand.

I liked this picture for the most part. The real story is the conflict between the three people in the bunker; that is the real movie here. Once that part is resolved and the film goes outside, the real movie is over. What we get next is fifteen minutes of sci-fi craziness that just feels entirely out of place. This film spent 90 percent of its time being a really great thriller and then gives us 10 percent that is a totally different film. Sure, you anticipate something outside of the bunker but emotionally, that was secondary to the situation inside. For me, it just didn’t fit. And to someone who might not make the connection to Cloverfield, a film that is eight years older than this one and now kind of forgotten, they will probably be caught off guard. There just isn’t really a reason to go the route that they do with the ending. It feels cheap and stupid and the threats outside aren’t that cool looking to begin with.

10 Cloverfield Lane, despite finding itself in Bizarro World at the end, is still a solid movie. Goodman was fantastic and completely scary, Winstead put in some of her best acting to date and Gallagher was really likable as Emmett. It probably would have been a better film overall, had the emergence from the bunker been met with a far off scene of what was outside, as opposed to being immediately overwhelmed by it. The film nailed the “less is more” concept but then ignored it at the very end.

Rating: 6/10