"It is tense and fascinating, but the tenuous Cloverfield connection is disappointing and misleading."
The hype for 10 Cloverfield Lane has been high ever since its existence was announced in January: the marketing campaign has been genius in that it never gave away what it really is, or anything plot-wise or its connection with Cloverfield, the 2008 found-footage monster disaster movie.
The film follows Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who has just ditched her fiancé and is driving away from their home when she is involved in a major car accident. She wakes up in an underground doomsday shelter made by Howard (John Goodman), a survivalist who found her and saved her life. Also in the bunker is Emmet (John Gallagher, Jr.). Neither of them are allowed to leave because, according to Howard, the outside air is no longer breathable due a chemical attack.
This is the creepiest John Goodman has been in years. As someone who knows him best for comedy, it was interesting seeing this new side of him and he was perfectly convincing. For a long time throughout the movie you don’t know if he is a good man helping out these people or if he has some sinister agenda and that makes it all very tense in such a claustrophobic setting. Winstead, who has not done many notable projects of late, is brilliantly cast as the victim/heroine of the piece. The role could easily have been overdone but she finds a balance in her portrayal of panic, fear for her life and steely resolve to survive. Gallagher Jr.’s character is not as well written as the others but he brings a lot of energy, levity and charisma to the movie and he made me smile a lot.
Although the intensity levels skyrocket throughout the movie, it does take a while to get going and you do start to wonder if anything is actually going to happen. But when it does it is well worth the wait. Given the setting, most of the drama and shocks comes simply through their conversation, which takes odds turns, and slowly reveals information as the cast all bring their A-game. It becomes a totally different film around three quarters of the way through, but for the sake of spoilers, I won’t be going into it.
So as a standalone movie it is brilliant and I would wholeheartedly recommend it. It is tense and fascinating, but the tenuous Cloverfield connection was disappointing and misleading. I was waiting the entire time for something to happen where the connection was apparent and it never really comes. Reading fan theories online, there are fragments which could tie each movie, but they are minimal. The title is simply a sly marketing trick to pull in the audiences without the substance to back it up. The filmmakers have made it clear it was not a sequel but a blood relative of sorts to Cloverfield and I imagine a lot of people will feel mislead by the so-called connection. Perhaps it will become apparent in further movies – the ending definitely suggests a continuation.
I would have preferred 10 Cloverfield Lane to be called something else and for the connection to not exist because it is a really great film, yet I spent the entire time waiting for some big revelation that never came. It was distracting and I ultimately felt let down and mislead. Just be aware before you go in that it may be a different film from what you were expecting.