Secrecy in Hollywood is hard to come by in this day and age. We often find that we come to know everything about a film before it even hits theaters. So when the trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane popped up in January of 2016 in front of a few movies (I saw it in front of 13 Hours) it came to the surprise of many. It surprised us even further by giving us a March release date in that year. While this has worked out in the past for films like John Wick, it was no surprise to see that JJ Abrams was behind it all. Abrams was once again behind the viral marketing for The Cloverfield Paradox which was just released on Netflix. Back in 2016, Abrams did it right the first time he tried it. 10 Cloverfield Lane is an excellently crafted and pulse pounding thriller that uses every inch of it’s claustrophobic setting to create a film that will keep you guessing until the end.

This film is better served going into fresh if you haven’t seen it. However, I will give the basics of the plot. The film stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman and John Gallagher Jr. as three strangers who wind up in a doomsday bunker together. Michelle (Winstead) crashes her car after skipping town on her significant other and wakes up to find she is in the bunker with a mysterious and paranoid man, Howard (Goodman) and a young man named Emmett (Gallagher Jr.). The three co-exist within the confines of Howard’s shelter and wait for the seemingly destroyed world above to slowly recuperate.

The cast in this film is incredible. Winstead and Gallagher Jr. are electric. But it is Goodman who steals the show. Howard is a throughly unsettling character and Goodman absolutely crushes it. We never know what Howard’s next move will be and he cultivates an aura of unpredictability. We ultimately take the journey here with Winstead’s character but it’s Goodman who we are constantly looking over our shoulders at. Few actors can display the emotional range he shows in this film. It’s a tightly wound screenplay which was co-written by Damian Chazelle who wrote and directed the fantastic films Whiplash and La La Land. 

The tension in this film is excruciatingly palpable. For a debut feature, Dan Trachtenberg’s direction makes you well aware just how close to each other these three live. It’s really fun to watch them all play against each other and see their characters unfold. Before it’s sure to be polarizing finale, the film gives off a vibe of an indie drama. It’s so well acted and the scenes that slowly build with dramatic tension are done so professionally you’d think Trachtenberg was a veteran director. This is a gripping character piece that grabs you from the moment it works its way into the bunker and doesn’t let go until the very end.

The ending, as mentioned, will polarize some viewers. However, call it shoehorned or whatever it may be, it doesn’t take away from the enthralling and powerful dramatic pieces that precede it. The less you know about this film going in, the more you will enjoy it. It is a well rounded, fiercely acted and all around really fun time at the theater. It combines the feel of an indie drama with authentic thrills and a splash of a monster movie. Simply put 10 Cloverfield Lane is unlike anything you would expect, and that is what makes it so incredibly joyful to watch.

1cl“10 Cloverfield Lane”
Grade: B+

Cast: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr.
Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Runtime: 103 minutes
Rated: PG-13 (for thematic material including frightening sequences of threat with some violence, and brief language)