Eight years ago, when J.J Abrams released Cloverfield, the film, through its increasingly intelligent marketing, arrived in almost cloaked secrecy. And while the film may not have been as good as many expected it to be, it was certainly marketed very smartly. Now, some eight years later, the film’s so-called “blood relative”, comes with a similar marketing strategy. But not only does 10 Cloverfield Lane outshine its blood-relative on every level, but it’s also probably the best movie disguised as another movie I can ever recount seeing.
The premise is fairly simple. Aspiring fashion designer Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) tearfully packs up and walks out on a relationship, but after her car goes off the road in an accident she wakes up in a knee brace that’s chained to the wall of a bunker.
Howard (John Goodman) appears and informs her that there has been a devastating attack outside involving either the Russians or Extraterrestrials which has rendered the air unbreathable, and that he has saved her life by bringing her to his shelter.
Is Howard telling the truth about the apocalypse outside? Is he merely a kidnapper of young women? And if so, why is construction worker Emmitt (John Gallagher, Jr.) down there as well? Can Michelle trust Emmitt as an ally?
10 Cloverfield Lane is one of the movies that you should go into without knowing anything at all. Director Dan Trachenberg and his screenwriters Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken and Damien Chazelle are able to craft a claustrophobic psychological thriller that’s Hitchcockian in almost every way and the film’s exceedingly claustrophobic location and performances from its three actors only help in cranking up the pressure cooker suspense.
But that’s not all. 10 Cloverfield Lane also happens to be an expertly crafted mystery that kept me guessing at nearly every turn. And what’s great is how smartly Trachenberg and the screenwriters play out this mystery.
Ofcourse, none of this would be possible without the three stellar central performances from Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr. and John Goodman. And holy hell is John Goodman incredible in this movie. He controls every scene he’s in and does it in such a fantastic way. The guy is basically the embodiment of the term ‘creepy’. One moment he’s the epitome of towering rage. The next he’s sympathetic and sensitive. The actor’s ability to turn moods on a mere twitch of his eyes or curl of his lip is one of the factors that make this movie downright gripping and Goodman’s performance truly unforgettable.
Unpredictability is a frequently missing element in films. Especially those that fall into the horror or science-fiction genres. With 10 Cloverfield Lane though, there is no such problem. And here, there are many twists and turns that you don’t see coming.
In the end, 10 Cloverfield Lane emerges as an intimate and nerve-wracking suspense thriller that moves seamlessly and keeps you both intrigued and gripped at almost every turn and features a shocking good turn from John Goodman. I wish more movies were this well-constructed and intriguing.