Michelle is leaving her engagement ring on the counter and heading away from her boyfriend after an argument. As she travels across the country to start her new life she is involved in a car wreck. When she wakes up she finds herself in a bunker, with Howard, who insists that there has been an attack and if they leave the safety of the bunker they’ll die. A local handyman who helped build the bunker is also locked in. Howard goes from cuddly teddy bear to psychopath leaving Michelle wondering what is the truth and what is part of his psychosis.
Lets get rid of the large monster in the room, this is not a sequel to the original Cloverfield movie. It does not have any of the actors, characters, or situations. If you can treat this film in your mind as a stand alone science fiction story like The Outer Limits or The Twilight Zone you’ll have a damn good time in the cinema.
I’m going to say right now that Cloverfield is one of those films for me, it’s not in the top ten, or top twenty, it’s just that I could watch it all the time at any time. We all have a list of movies that are just goodly friends to us that make us feel better when we have a rough day. It’s also one of only a handful of movies shot in the whole ‘found footage’ style that I like.
So the monster is not here, has never existed, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a completely different animal all together. Howard is played by John Goodman, and if anyone ever doubts his ability as an actor I’m going to staple their eyelids to their forehead and make them watch this. Howard is a conspiracy nut who has been preparing for the end of the world for some time, you don’t know, and I’m sure not going to tell you, if he is right or just a few drips short of a full barrel. The rest of the small cast is Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Michelle, and John Gallagher Jr. as Emmet. With the cast being this small everyone has to up their game and manage to develop characters in the strangest situations. Thankfully the script helps as the dialogue is sharp enough that you start to care about the characters quickly. You go from loving Howard to thinking he’s a little insane in the membrane, and then back to loving him.
The ever-present threat of the outside air being toxic and Howard varying who is attacking them or what is attacking them keeps you questioning your own belief of what is going to happen next. Dan Trachtenberg directs the film in a way that brings you in quickly to the situation and grips you straight from the start with a little hint of inspiration from Hitchcock. The ending of the film, while it is really well done, and gave me a few giggles, goes about one step beyond the line of what it should have, slightly taking away from the good work that they had done up until that one alcohol bomb. It’s a small gripe but when you’ve had fun for 80 minutes and they do something that is a little too much in the last 15 minutes you leave with that sour taste in your mouth.
You have to now think of the Cloverfield movies as a series of movie science fiction pieces tied by a name and nothing more. Well crafted with stories that move us like those short science fiction stories some of us read while growing up in the 80’s. If you are expecting that massive monster from the first movie then you are going to be disappointed, if you go in thinking that you are going to be entertained then you won’t be disappointed. John Goodman’s performance is worth the price of admission alone.