Directed by Dan Trachtenberg and the second film in the Cloverfield franchise, originally developed from a script titled The Cellar, 10 Cloverfield Lane follows a young woman, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who wakes up after a car accident to find that she is locked in an underground bunker with a young man, Emmett (John Gallagher Jr). The shelter belongs to doomsday-prepper Howard (John Goodman), who claims that the outside world is uninhabitable following an apocalyptic catastrophe of a widespread chemical attack, and insists that he saved Michelle’s life. Uncertain what to believe, Michelle is soon faced with the decision to believe a questionable stranger, or attempt an escape at any cost.
10 Cloverfield Lane does what every psychological thriller should do: it keeps you on the edge of your seat. It’s very rare that a film can make you feel so uncomfortable and claustrophobic, but that’s why this film is such an intense watch.
Faced with the gut-wrenching decision to either go outside and possibly face an alien invasion, or to stay inside with a creepy John Goodman, who may or may not be a genuinely kind-hearted odd-ball, we face Michelle’s dilemma with her. Personally, I don’t think I could have spent another minute with Goodman, and will forever be terrified of the man we once knew as Fred Flintstone.
It’s difficult to say whether The Cellar would have worked without Bad Robot coming along and linking the film to the well-loved science fiction film that is Cloverfield because, whilst the opening chapter is chilling on its own right, it’s all about how the film comes together at the end. You don’t have to be a fan of the first film to enjoy this film, as it’s not a direct sequel, only forming from a similar premise, but it certainly works well to have the links there, even if many of them are incredibly subtle.
Personally, I much preferred the first half of the film as we see the characters plotting their escape and, whilst the second half is very clever in how the story develops and the truth is revealed, I could have happily seen the characters remain underground, face their demise, and not know the reality of the Cloverfield aliens outside, and it would have still been a gripping watch.
And there’s one reason for that. What makes this film work so well – aside from this genius (or as some may say, ‘money making’) scheme of linking a seemingly mediocre plot to a well-known franchise – is the terrific performances. Mary Elizabeth Winstead leads the film phenomenally, but it is Goodman who creates the tense atmosphere. Together, they ensure that you won’t want to blink in case of missing any tiny detail that Trachtenberg tremendously directs.