REVIEW: 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

Theatrical Release Poster – Bad Robot – Paramount

The following is a review of ’10 Cloverfield Lane’, a Dan Trachtenberg film.

Let’s talk about expectations. The tagline of the film, “Monsters come in many forms,” is the truest representation of the film. With the original Cloverfield we were treated to a found-footage monster movie, but 10 Cloverfield Lane is a much more polished, suspenseful, and mysterious thriller. It is a very different movie, so manage your expectations. But I think I actually like 10 Cloverfield Lane more than its titular relative. 

That sort of leads me right to the elephant in the room, as it were. Is this a sequel? Now, I don’t consider that a spoiler, seeing as, I believe J. J. Abrams already spoke on the matter, but if that’s too much information for you, then stop here. It is not a sequel. I very much compare the title to The Twilight Zone and Masters of Horror. I would call it an anthology-style film-series, whereas J. J. Abrams has referred to it only as a ‘blood relative’ to Cloverfield.

10 Cloverfield Lane follows Michelle (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who survives a car crash and wakes up in a bunker fearing for her life. An older man named Howard (played by John Goodman) claims to have saved her from a chemical attack on America, but something’s off about her ‘savior’. Naturally, she tries to escape from the bunker. And that is all I’ll say about the plot details. J. J. Abrams and Bad Robot love their mystery boxes, and I’m not going to spoil the movie for you. The plot poses a lot of questions. Classic Bad Robot. You will be surprised.

But I’ll admit that I was worried when I first saw who made this film. It’s not like J. J. Abrams directed the original film either, though. Also, there are a lot of writers that worked on the film. But I am so happy to say that Dan Trachtenberg, who had never made a full feature film before, masterfully directed 10 Cloverfield Lane. He handles the terrifying aspects as well as he handles the action and the human elements. Amazing debut for him.

I really liked the story of the film, though I can’t really talk about it at length due to the spoilerific nature of any film titled ‘Cloverfield’. I will say that the film does have some funny moments, but it is mostly a very interesting suspense thriller. The third act is absolutely insane, but the good kind of insane, if that makes any sense. The entire third act kept me on the edge of my seat. The very best thrillers make use of a powerful score, and 10 Cloverfield Lane does that as well. It can be eery and subtle, as well as powerful and dark. Bear McCreary did a great job with the musical score.

But the very best part of the film is John Goodman’s performance. I really don’t think I’ve ever seen him better. You never know where you have his character. You never know if he’s telling the truth. An absolutely masterful performance by Goodman. And Mary Elizabeth Winstead is really, really good too. The character has these little MacGyver-moments that I really enjoyed, but the character, as a whole, is very well-rounded.

The original Cloverfield was much more of an event, whereas 10 Cloverfield Lane is a polished attempt at a full-fledged thriller. There is much more to 10 Cloverfield Lane, and I think it is a much better film than the original. But while this film has been marketed as a suspenseful thriller, I do think it lives up to the Cloverfield-name. I am so excited to see what Bad Robot comes up with next. I want a lot more Cloverfield-films, and I want to see what Dan Trachtenberg can do outside of the Cloverfield-brand.

8.8 out of 10

– I’m Jeffrey Rex