Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane


Sci-Fi stories have been told since the birth of film. From The Day the Earth Stood Still to Attack the Block, these stories have been a bridge between our greatest nightmares and our imaginations.

Recently, sci-fi has taken a sharp turn into our realities. A generation that feared the Cold War and the atom bomb gave birth to a generation that fears government surveillance and artificial intelligence. With rapid advancements in technology, a lot of sci-fi started to reflect the fears and unknowns that accompany our ongoing relationship with technology.

Director Dan Trachtenberg reignites those old Cold War fears with his latest film, 10 Cloverfield Lane.

10 Cloverfield Lane is a simple story – Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is driving down a dark road when she’s distracted by a phone call and crashes her car. She wakes up in a small room chained to a pipe. Shortly after Michelle wakes up, she’s greeted by Howard (John Goodman) who informs her that he saved her life, and he’s not talking about the car accident. He tells her there’s been an attack by someone or something and the air outside is no longer breathable. They’re safe in his underground bunker but everyone outsdie is dead.

When Michelle leaves the room she meets Emmett (John Gallagher Jr), a local man who helped Howard build his doomsday bunker. After the attacks, he rushed over to Howard’s place and fought his way in. He even injured his shoulder in the process.

Believing it’s no longer safe outside, the three try to coexist inside the bunker. However, Howard isn’t making things easy. He’s a conspiracy theorist who’s anti social, temperamental, and says things like, “Crazy is building your ark after the flood has already come.” Things are going as good as they can until Michelle and Emmett realize Howard isn’t being honest about some things. The two question if it’s still safe for them inside the bunker and if they can trust what Howard says is happening outside.

The story is throwback to the character driven sci-fi thrillers from the 60’s. Every fear or uncertainty is shown through the character interactions. The plot is basically a three person play – Winstead and Gallagher are really good, but the film doesn’t work without John Goodman as Howard. Goodman is unbelievably creepy in this role. Everything from his loud outburst to his calm answers is unsettling. Every time he opens his mouth, it’s not clear if he’s lying or telling the truth. Goodman plays Howard right on the line of socially awkward nerd and complete psychopath. Michelle’s character is the center of this story, but Howard is who drives the narrative from beginning to end.

Trachtenberg brilliance as a director comes into play when the story ties together during the heart-pounding third act. The audience is in the dark, as well as Michelle, and everyone figures out what’s happening at the same time. There’s a level of patience necessary for this type of storytelling and Trachtenberg holds back a lot, only to release it like a hammer when you least expect it.

10 Cloverfield Lane is not a sequel to 2008’s Cloverfield, but it’s just as brilliant. The film taps into your greatest fears and keeps the lid on what’s happening until the final minutes. It’s an excellent sci-fi thriller that pays homage to the past without being a boring carbon copy.

Grade: A