10 Cloverfield Lane
by Christie Robb
From the moments the credits jolt onto the screen, 10 Cloverfield Lane keeps you on the edge of your seat.
More of a second cousin than a sequel to 2008’s Cloverfield, J.J. Abram’s-produced 10 Cloverfield Lane is a claustrophobic thriller. No found footage. No shaky camera. No perturbed kaiju.
Following a car crash, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) awakens shackled in a locked basement room, attached to an IV. So she’s understandably wary when confronted with the basement’s owner Howard (John Goodman). He places a tray of food next to her and tells her his malevolent plan is to…keep her alive.
He informs her that while she was unconscious there’d been an attack and most people on the outside are either dead or heading in that direction. The air has been contaminated and they’ll have to stay underground for a year or two. Howard doesn’t know if the Russians or the Martians are to blame, but he’s pleased with his decision to build a bunker under his farmhouse.
Howard and Michelle are not alone. The other inhabitant of the bunker is seemingly easygoing Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) whose injuries confuse Michelle as he says he sustained them in attempt to fight his way inside.
From there on out the movie asks the audience if Michelle can trust either of the two men or the situation that she thinks she has found herself in. It’s a vague enough description, I know, but to attempt to explain it in more depth would ruin a lot of the fun.
As you would hope, in a movie with this small of a cast, each of the three actors gives a strong performance. Winstead’s Michelle is delightfully observant, practical, and resourceful. Gallagher is wistful and charismatic. And Goodman shines, giving a performance reminiscent of Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski—bouncing from paranoid to menacing to eccentrically charming, often in the same scene.
First-time director Dan Trachtenberg ratchets up the tension as the movie progresses, finding the creepiness in even the most mundane domestic activities.