Let’s start with this, 10 Cloverfield Lane is about 90% drama and 10% sci-fi, so if you’re looking for heavy sci-fi in the film you won’t be a happy camper. Being cool with that, it’s a decent drama/thriller with a sci-fi nod in the last 15 minutes or so. The sci-fi part of this mainly is the temporal backdrop as this film is set on the same timeline as the original Cloverfield movie.
The premise is that through a car accident, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) finds herself in a bunker being nursed back to health by a man who isn’t the most stable individual in the world during a time of world crisis. The crisis itself isn’t clear, but it’s some kind of attack (if you’ve seen the first film, you know the deal here) and it’s not safe outside of the bunker. The film unfolds as Michelle is held there against her will for her own safety along with the safety of another inhabitant named Emmet and their captor Howard. Meantime, outside the bunker is a whole other story…
The film is well written and directed. The director being Temple graduate Dan Trachtenberg (go Philly!) who did a great job putting everything together under producer JJ Abrams. I’ll say the same thing about this film as I did the first Cloverfield, it’s one of the few films I really liked that JJ is involved with and it’s because he’s producing, not writing and directing. Sorry folks, but for me his writing and directing is really hacky and formulaic these days with much more flash than substance. This film however, doesn’t have those problems. The suspense is well orchestrated and the outcome is one of those things you keep wondering about in terms of where things are going without relying on a big, vacuous use of effects.
The actors are great. Mary Elizabeth Winstead does pretty well playing her part with some strong emotion and nice subtleties in her delivery. John Goodman as Howard is especially good in his role. He’s unnerving and unstable and yet balances that out with trying to be fatherly and protective of Michelle, he’s not so fond of Emmet. John Gallagher Jr. performs well as Emmet playing the character in a way that showed him as kind of a naive, innocent guy that is trying to do his best in resolving their situation while trying not to upset Howard in the process. For some bizarre reason, Bradley Cooper does the voice on the phone as Michelle’s boyfriend. *Sideline note here – this is a stupid-ass vanity move and a waste of budget, he brings nothing to this role other than a higher paycheck and a really dumb way of spending money on a film.
When the film concludes is when it hits the big effects sequence and the dramatic tie-in with the first movie. If you’re a fan of the original Cloverfield, it’s worth a look in the theater. If you’re just into dramas, you might wait for Netflix.
reviewed by Sean McKnight