The trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane achieved everything a trailer should aspire to; it created massive intrigue, laid the foundations for a compelling narrative and most importantly, it didn’t give away all of its secrets. Not only that but it seemed to generate a lot of confusion as to whether or not it had any relation to monster thriller Cloverfield (2008). The answers that were given were extremely vague but it soon became clear that this wasn’t to be a direct sequel to that film but something set in the same universe, kind of. Either way, this trailer seriously grabbed my attention so I went into watching the movie with fairly high expectations but at the same time not really knowing what to expect, a rare feeling.
Following an argument with her fiancé Ben, Michelle leaves New Orleans and drives through rural Louisiana. Late at night, she turns on the radio only to hear that there were continuous blackouts in major cities. Distracted by a call from Ben, Michelle gets into an accident down the street from Beaumont and is rendered unconscious.
She wakes up in a concrete room chained to a wall, and is approached by a man named Howard, who explains that an unknown attack has taken place and that he brought her to his bunker after finding her on the side of the road.
When she comes to, Howard calmly explains to Michelle that there has been an attack on the surface, and that the air up there is unbreathable, so he brought Michelle down to the bunker beneath his farm. Howard brings Michelle up to the airlock to see what’s going on outside. Nothing appears unusual, but Michelle spots Howard’s truck with red paint on the side, and she recognizes it as the truck that hit her.
Michelle leaves the room and finds a younger man named Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.). His arm is broken, and Howard tells Michelle that Emmett knocked over a shelf with a week’s worth of food. Emmett appears friendlier than Howard. He explains that he willingly joined Howard in building the bunker, Emmett claims to have seen the attack occur, describing a red flash and running to get inside, which he says explains his broken arm.
Howard makes Michelle and Emmett join him for dinner like a family. Michelle engages in pleasant conversation with Emmett that appears sort of flirty, causing Howard to angrily respond. He warns the two of them not to behave like that. When he’s not looking, Michelle grabs his keys. A rumble occurs overhead, distracting everyone but giving Michelle a chance to smash a beer bottle over Howard’s head. She runs out toward the airlock and tries to get out. Michelle stands in the airlock between the outside and the inside as Howard begs her not to go outside. A woman pleads to be let inside, but her skin is deformed from an infection. Howard urges Michelle not to let this woman in. The woman grows agitated and starts banging her head on the glass of the door.
Now fearing that Howard may be right, Michelle begins to listen to him. He apologizes for his previous behaviour and admits to hitting her car. He then tells Michelle to stitch up the wound on his head from the broken bottle.
As time passes, the trio begins adapting to living underground, and Michelle learns of Howard’s daughter Megan. When the air filtration unit breaks down, Howard asks Michelle to climb through the air ducts to reset the system. She discovers a window with the word ‘HELP’ scratched on the inside and a bloody earring that she recognizes from a picture of Megan. She shows the picture to Emmett, who recognizes her as a missing girl from his high school, Brittany. They then discover a Polaroid of Brittany wearing the same clothes loaned to Michelle. Realizing that Howard is dangerous, they begin to plan an escape and fashion a biohazard suit.
That’s as far as I’ll go in terms of explaining the plot as this is definitely the type of movie that shouldn’t have its ending spoiled, I’d still like to give my opinion on it though.
10 Cloverfield Lane has a fairly basic premise but it’s incredibly compelling throughout thanks to some really strong performances. John Goodman is fantastic as the very odd Howard; he’s quite likeable at times but can switch suddenly and become deeply paranoid, strict and controlling, basically not the type of guy you’d wanna be stuck with underground at the end of the world. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Michelle and is once again a very strong female lead.
The film makes the point of telling us very little about these characters, while it does add intrigue it would have been nice if they had been developed further and maybe we had learnt more of their lives before it all began. I feel there was plenty of time for this but it never really happens so actually caring about the characters is definitely an issue. I found Howard to be most interesting, there doesn’t seem to be much to Michelle and while there are some excellent theories about Emmett he’s just kind of there for some of the lighter moments.
What the movie does do well is atmosphere and tension but I’d say this is mostly due to how much of an imposing figure Howard is. The film makes you imagine yourself in Michelle’s shoes and what exactly you would think or do in that situation. It would be easy to simply say that Howard is insane and that’s exactly what Michelle thinks, Howard does a poor job of explaining things so you can’t blame her really.
Unfortunately, I feel the film gives away that Howard is telling the truth a little too early on and could have let tension rise even higher. The whole point of the film seems to be that even though it really is hell outside of the underground bunker and just because Howard is right; it doesn’t change the fact that he’s an insufferable asshole.
There are a bunch of fascinating theories floating around about the relationship of Howard and Emmet, why Howard is so cold towards him and why he enforces a no touching rule between Emmet and Michelle. It could be that Howard is just a dick but I definitely buy into a certain theory that I won’t reveal, I think you’re supposed to draw your own conclusions because the film explains very little.
Anyway, the finale is extremely over the top. Michelle’s eventual escape is tension filled, dramatic and exhilarating but the way in which she gets there is a little silly.
Still, as the viewer you’re dying to find out just what she will see when she makes it to the surface but you might find yourself slightly disappointed like I was. Oh, it’s definitely something but don’t expect to see the Cloverfield monster because it’s not that. There’s a moment when Michelle frantically makes her way atop a car to gaze onto the horizon and get a glimpse of the world. Personally, I would have had her see the Cloverfield monster laying waste to the world and then had the credits roll but it’s again a little over the top and out of tone to the rest of the film. It raises a whole bunch of questions about the universe and leaves it wide open for a sequel which I definitely want to see so it succeeds there.
I like the theory of different movies, different people and different alien invasions all taking place in the same type of universe or sub-universe but we’ll have to wait and see where that goes.
10 Cloverfield Lane gets everything right, until a point. I probably would have had things turn out differently but it’s not my movie.
10 Cloverfield Lane