The original Cloverfield was a fun, novel (at the time) found footage monster film. If you could get past the “why doesn’t he put the camera down and help” thoughts it was a good film. It was a surprise then that a sequel came about, the film was created under a cloak of secrecy and then revealed to be a sequel, though in truth saying it’s a sequel to Cloverfield would be wrong.
10 Cloverfield Lane starts with Michelle, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, A Good Day To Die Hard) waking up chained to a pipe in a barren room having just been in a car accident. In walks Howard, the ever excellent John Goodman, who tells her he’s rescued her and that there’s been an attack, and they can’t leave, the air is contaminated. Howard has also saved Emmett, John Gallagher Jr. (Jonah Hex, The Newsroom) who helped him build the bunker they’re in.
Michelle is suspicious towards Howard, she doesn’t believe him that the outside is as dangerous as he is telling her and so begins a film of who’s telling the truth and what is that truth. You may have read reviews comparing 10 Cloverfield Lane to some of Hitchcock’s work. I have to be blunt and say that’s a massive insult to Hitchcock. Whilst 10 Cloverfield Lane is suspenseful, it has nothing of the primal fears or tension of a Hitchcock film.
What it does have however is an excellent performance from John Goodman, you’re not supposed to know who’s side he’s on and you never do, even when it ends. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is good as Michelle, the lost girl running away who finds her fight and John Gallagher Jr. adds some nice comedic touches to lighten things up occasionally.
The film lives and breathes on the fact that you don’t know what’s happened or happening beyond the bunker. Is Michelle being kept against her will? Is Howard telling the truth about an attack? Screenwriters Josh Campbell (4 Minute Mile), Matthew Stuecken (The Tower of Babble) and Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, The Last Exorcism Part II) drop in clues throughout which point you in either way which is fun and keeps you guessing.
The problems arise towards the end of the film, the infamous ‘last half hour’ of any film where all the action takes place. It’s at this point it begins to lose its way a little and stops being a tense thriller and turns into any action/thriller you’ve seen before. Where people keep getting up after being knocked down and overcome impossible odds and aliens, obviously aliens.
Director Dan Trachtenberg (his first feature as a director) does a decent job but I never felt claustrophobic as I’d have expected to. There was never a sense of escape or freedom or expanse outside of the bunker mainly because there was no sense of cramped, close-quarters, claustrophobic-ness that should have been there within a bunker. A decent film, left wide open for a sequel, personally I can live without.