10 Cloverfield Lane is a clever chamber piece that focuses on three characters and reveals just enough twists to keep things interesting. It’s about kidnapping and murder but makes it ambiguous enough to hint there’s something more.
Thankfully, the movie doesn’t turn its characters into idiots to generate scares. The director does have a knack for building tension in a confined space through visual storytelling. The production design looks convincing as a precisely constructed and lived-in bunker.
The brilliance of the movie lies in doling out clues along the way that doesn’t just serve the story but also reveals insights about its characters. In one scene, tensions rise as Howard provides an ominous clue to a guessing game after failing his turn for categorizing Michelle as a girl instead of a woman.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead proves to be one of the most underrated actresses today as a convincing stand-in for the audience as Michelle. John Gallagher provides some levity in the situation as Emmet, who is convinced that his former employer is the real deal.
However, it is John Goodman who stands out because the ambiguity of the movie hinges on his performance as Howard. Alternating between a well-prepared survivalist and a paranoid prepper with a short fuse, you don’t know if he’s saying the truth.
Therein lies the selling point of the movie – would you rather brave a possibly contaminated world or stay in your bubble of safety that could possibly be a trap? What if it was both?
Unfortunately, the pay-off, in the end, is a calculated twist to hitch itself to another franchise. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a blood relative to the found-footage monster movie Cloverfield.
Dan Trachtenberg has confirmed that it’s not a Cloverfield sequel or a shoehorned spinoff. But the jarring switch – and the fact that the movie didn’t have a title until JJ Abrams suggested it – makes it obvious that the ending is a marketing ploy to attract Cloverfield fans.
Nonetheless, 10 Cloverfield Lane still offers an engaging movie for viewers who prefer tension and suspense over blood and gore.
10 Cloverfield Lane
10 Cloverfield Lane is a clever chamber piece inside an engaging thriller, thanks to an efficient script and great performance from its cast, even if its ending is a marketing ploy.