10 Cloverfield Lane is on DVD and all digital platforms now
Starring: John Goodman (The Big Lebowski, TV’s Roseanne)
Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The Thing)
John Gallagher Jr. (Hush, Short Term 12)
Directed by: Dan Trachtenberg (Portal: No Escape)
This movie confused me for so long, and I’m still a bit confused. It’s not the plot that confuses me, but I could never figure out what, if anything, 10 Cloverfield Lane had to do with Abrams’ 2008 monster movie Cloverfield. I avoided looking up anything about the movie so I never figured anything out until 10 Cloverfield Lane came out on DVD and I watched it last night. I did not, however, learn about the connections from simply watching the movie — I had to look them up online after. Why am I getting into all this nonsense in my review? Because I want to encourage potential viewers of this movie to do two things: 1) avoid looking up any information about the movie (especially the European trailer) and 2) ignore the connection to the 2008 movie because it is not very relevant.
10 Cloverfield Lane is not really a movie about literal (if that makes sense) monsters. It is a fantastic mystery that examines domestic abuse and what it is like to have nowhere to run. So much of the film hinges on the audience knowing very little about it (I seem to be reviewing media like this a lot recently), and because of that I am going to avoid getting into too much detail here. The basic, spoiler-free premise is this: a girl gets in a car accident then wakes up locked in a doomsday shelter with two men who claim the world is unsafe. Like Michelle the audience has no idea what is true or not. All we know is Michelle got into some sort of argument with her boyfriend, we don’t know what it was about, so she got in her car and headed North. She was hit by a speeding, erratic truck then tipped over down a bank. The screen goes black, opening credits appear, then the next time we see Michelle she has a broken leg, is hooked up to an IV, and is chained to a pipe in a basement.
The above information is really all you need to know about 10 Cloverfield Lane. If that sounds interesting to you, then I would check it out. In fact, I would say you don’t even need to know any of that. If you like mysteries or thrillers, any kind of movie where you’re guessing what’s happening along with the characters, then this is probably right up your alley. It also doesn’t hurt that Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and John Goodman (The Big Lebowski) are both amazing. Winstead plays the badass “captive” Michelle, and Goodman is a very convincing, at times scary, always distraught, doomsday prepper named Howard. Rounding out the three person cast is John Gallagher Jr. (Hush) who plays the very charming Emmett who we know from the trailers claims to have broken his arm fighting to get in to the bunker, not out. All of the acting is strong.
The mystery and suspense are compelling. The set is really well done. And the aforementioned acting is very good. Everything about 10 Cloverfield Lane is pretty great… until the last fifteen or so minutes. I won’t get into why, but I will say some people liked the ending and more people didn’t — I hated it. I hated the end so much that it subtracted points from the overall score I am giving this movie. I read the original ending, before Abrams’ Bad Robot was attached, and loved it. Aside from the end, the plot is really interesting. Sure, we’ve seen apocalypse movies, but I’ve never seen one that examines the idea that the survivors are more dangerous than the doomsday event itself… or maybe they’re not, we don’t know until the third act.
So the very loose connection to 2008’s Cloverfield may or may not make sense to you by the end of the movie, and it may seem like a sequel will be coming, but neither of those are important. If you ignore all that, and ignore the last fifteen minutes, this is a perfect thriller-mystery. I’m willing to disregard the former because it is not the filmmakers fault, but the latter is and I have to consider that in my grade. Overall, I recommend watching this movie if the trailer piqued your interest at all.
Joe Portes is a writer of Fiction and Essays, as well as a Creative Writing instructor in Upstate New York. He has edited literary journals and online magazines where his stories, interviews, and reviews have also appeared. His work has been in or is forthcoming in the Indianola Review, Pitkin Review, and Free George Magazine among others. Aside from writing for the Pop Culture Beast, he maintains a blog at JoePortes.com where you can read about everything from teaching college freshmen, to his love of podcasts, to playing video games.