In this “sequel”-not-a-sequel of the 2008 monster film “Cloverfield,” Michelle, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, is a woman running from her upcoming marriage. This apparently happens after an argument with her fiance that has given her second thoughts. Driving alone on cross-country roads, she is sideswiped in a car accident. When she wakes up, she finds herself trapped in a bunker along with a man named Emmet DeWitt. They are kept there by the armed and physically imposing Howard Stambler, who insists that the outside world is no longer safe. What follows is a tension-filled dramatic mystery as Michelle tries to find out if Howard is telling the truth, and if not, how she and Emmet can escape.
I would not call this film a pure “horror” film. Instead it is prima a grim drama with some horror elements mixed in. It’s about how much trust, or rather how little, they have in each other and their intentions. The tension is thick and cerebral, coming mostly from the interactions of the cast and the threat of violence, rather than actual violence, though there is some of that, too. Normally, sequels are aimed at the audience of the previous film, but that strategy doesn’t really apply here. While “10 Cloverfield Lane” shares some thematic elements with its predecessor, there are few direct ties. Still, people who enjoy claustrophobic and nail-biting dramas will find a lot to like here while people only expecting another giant monster-filled story may leave disappointed.
“10 Cloverfield Lane” is great at what it does, which is create tension between its main characters. There were several twists to the plot that I wasn’t expecting which served to pull me along on a rollercoaster of suspense. I was on the edge of my seat from the moment Michelle woke up in the bunker until the end. The script is well written, and the actors all play their parts well, with a particularly imposing performance by John Goodman.
The ending, while enjoyable, changes the tone a bit, and in some ways it also changes the genre of the film. I think the ending might disenchant some viewers, but it worked for me.
There’s no question in my mind. “10 Cloverfield Lane” is worth bringing home as soon as it comes out on Blu-ray.
If you want to know more about my rating systems, check out what each rating means HERE.
I don’t feel like I know John Goodman’s career well enough. He played Howard Stambler so well in this film it makes me think he doesn’t get enough credit. His character felt consistent, and yet he managed to impart scenes with just the right nuance to make viewers question if he has ill intent, or if he is just a misunderstood introvert with poor communication skills dealing with a stressful situation. Yes, there were times when his character would do or say something dark, but there was always room to think he wasn’t as bad as he seemed; or at least, that is true up until you find out definitively if he is a monster or a red herring.
The other two actors, Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Michelle and John Gallagher Jr. as Emmet, also did very well with their parts, even if they don’t quite stand out as much as Goodman. Acting quality is incredibly important in this film because of the restricted nature of the plot. Almost the entire film takes place underground, and while the building is roomy for a bunker it is still claustrophobic. The three actors are the whole world to this film, and they pull it off.
The script and the plot have to be similarly tight, with good dialogue. It would be easy to fall into the trap of conversations and situations turning repetitive, with little to break it up and change the direction of the plot. The script avoids this, managing to make the most of the environment and the discoveries made throughout the film. Nothing ever feels boring or repetitive. There is always a new twist to proceedings to keep the audience’s’ attention.
The cinematography is highly effective, with wide shots when the tension is low, and tight shots when the tension climbs. There aren’t any grand vistas, but the camera work makes the most of the closed spaces to make every shot effective. The sparse music and sounds are also well utilized and edited well. There is nothing in particular worth criticizing about the film-making.
One of my few quibbles with the film is the lack of a sense of time. It could feel like the whole movie covers a few days, and yet other times it seems like it covers weeks or months. While that is understandable, considering that they are stuck in a bunker where time would begin to lose a real sense of meaning, it still hurts the audience’s ability to follow the flow of events.
Conclusion and Star Rating:
“10 Cloverfield Lane” is a film that is best when it is mysterious and secretive. It is difficult to talk about it any more than I have without walking into spoiler territory, and the film’s strengths rely heavily on the audience going in having the least amount of information about the plot as possible. In the end, all I can say is that “10 Cloverfield Lane” is a “Great” film. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a tension-filled genre drama.
I really like the final choice that Michelle makes, when she sits in her truck staring at the signs, one leading to safety and passivity, the other into battle. Ultimately the film was about her journey from being someone who runs from her problems, to someone who charges into it, capable of tackling whatever challenge presents itself. She chooses to face her problems. She overcomes the crap she’s had to survive and turns it into a source of inner strength. It felt pretty empowering to me, and I liked that.
The rest of the ending – and I don’t mean the ending in the bunker, I mean the aliens – was the weakest part for me, though it was still enjoyable. The creature dropped into the fields by the alien ship was at its most menacing when it was unclear, blurry, or hidden in the darkness. The second you see its CGI body up close, the film doesn’t feel as gritty as it did the entire time prior. I wonder if there wasn’t some way they could have used practical effects when up close, and CGI when further away. The space-ship was cool, at least. I liked how she used the Molotov on it. Clever. I’m not sure if it is down-the-spaceship-in-a-giant-fireball clever, but it was still entertaining to watch.
But really, the ending is secondary to the rest of the film. The tag line really does say it all, “Monsters come in many forms.” Yes, there are alien monsters, but there are also human ones, which are, in their own way, more horrifying. John Goodman really played an excellent human monster. He had me guessing the whole time. Until they found the earring I was half convinced Stambler was a red herring and that Emmet would turn out to be the crazy one in disguise.
Of course I was wrong about Emmet and it turned out he was just the most unlucky guy. I really felt bad for him. He wasn’t a particularly bright bulb but he had a good heart. He didn’t deserve the ending he got. His death and gruesome disposal did serve the purpose of sending Stambler from just creepy to imposing and dangerous as all hell. Man, my skin crawled so hard when Stambler brought Michelle ice cream with a shaved face after killing Emmet. Those small touches served to ratchet the tension up higher and higher so well.
What do you guys think? Which monster would you rather have to face, Stambler or the aliens? I mean, yeah, it’s Stambler. I might be able to survive Stambler, but the aliens would almost certainly kill me. Still… Stambler is so damn creepy, you guys!
Anyways, see you guys later!