Movie Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane

10 Cloverfield Lane is a well executed thriller thanks to great performances and a clever script that explores the modern fear of the unknown, sadly the makers of the film mars its achievements by ending it as a sly marketing trick.

Waking up from a car accident, a young woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) finds herself in the basement of a man who says he’s saved her life from a chemical attack that has left the outside uninhabitable.

10 Cloverfield Lane is a modern thriller about the fear of the unknown. Today, with humankind collectively accepting that it’s bound to screw it all up, the movie uses apocalyptic dread to fuel its thrills.

That isn’t to say that 10 Cloverfield Lane is another dystopian fantasy. It’s a clever chamber piece that focuses on three characters and reveals just enough twists to keep things interesting.

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 reveal 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?  It’s a plausible scary predicament in today’s world where even superheroes are stuck in doom and gloom narratives to reflect our apocalyptic anxieties.

10 Cloverfield Lane has interesting ideas that could also be a social commentary and spark discussion after the credits roll. Unfortunately, the makers of the movie can’t leave it alone as a thriller for the modern age.

There are unnecessary scenes that could have been better used for character and plot development, but they’re stalling tactics for the big reveal. Unfortunately, the pay-off in the end doesn’t match the build-up and leaves more unanswered questions along the way. It’s obviously a calculated twist that a cynic would have guessed just by reading the title.

10 Cloverfield Lane is a “blood relative” to the found footage monster movie Cloverfield. Makers insist that it’s not a sequel and another story in the same universe, but it’s easy to see it as a sly marketing ploy.

Nonetheless, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a timely thriller. Whether you’re a Cloverfield fan or not, it still offers an engaging movie for viewers who prefer tension and suspense over blood and gore.

My Rating: 8/10

For anyone wondering about what the marketing tie-in is, highlight below. SPOILER ALERT!

Howard is right, well almost. Michelle manages to escape his lifetime fantasy that previously failed with Megan (who turned out to be a missing girl named Brittany) only to face a monster invasion, which was triggered by the awakening in Cloverfield.  

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Man, really robust review here, Arline. As per usual. Didn’t like it quite as much as you I don’t think, especially having seen “Cloverfield”, as I found myself expecting…oh…more? Here’s the thrust of my review:

    “10 Cloverfield Lane” dutifully delivers it’s fair share of twists and turns, scares and surprises and jumps and jolts to be sure. But in the end it couldn’t help but feel as one long lead-up to a tacked on departure point for the next installment in the series. And I think that we as faithful fans expected and deserved just a little bit more than that.

    Wouldn’t you agree, J.J.?

    1. Thanks! yup the ending makes you feel cheated. For me the acting and screenplay was good enough of a compensation. And I think you can’t avoid this type of marketing tie-ins these days, its good for the producers and directors to make more out of their hits. But I confess, I haven’t seen Cloverfield though. The shaky cam turns me off. Maybe I’d get around to see it one day.

      1. Juuuuust about done with the “found footage” thing @ this point-“Cloverfield” was an early foray into the genre and is a pretty dang good flick actually.

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