10 Cloverfield Lane opens with a scene that’s familiar to most of us. Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is upset. She looks like she’s just had an argument with someone important and she’s zipping around her tiny apartment, stuffing clothes and mementos into bags. She’s getting the hell out of there and she aims to get as far as possible.
Michelle is driving furiously along the highway when she gets a call. It’s from her man. He confirms what we’ve known all along. They had a fight. We still don’t know what the fight was about, but we know it was big. We can tell by the panic in Michelle’s eyes and the unease in her movements. Frustrated and scared, she hangs up on him once and then refuses to answer when he calls back.
We don’t have much time to guess at what went down between Michelle and her man because right after that last call, she’s hit by another car and run off the road. Upon impact, she goes over a cliff and rolls into what looks like a rather painful unconscious state. She wakes up some time later--how much later we’re never really sure--in Howard’s (John Goodman) doomsday bunker. She doesn’t remember how she got there and Howard is entirely too serene given the explanation he's feeding her. None of this sits well with her. 10 Cloverfield Lane is the story of Michelle’s struggle to accept her situation and survive.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead is tense, confused and unsure as Michelle. Michelle has a tendency to run from her problems, as evidenced by that opening scene, but Winstead’s performance isn’t flaky or fragile. Instead, she gives us a Michelle that’s strong and skeptical, a woman who will not settle for someone else’s definition of safety. I love a strong female lead and Winstead delivers just that.
John Goodman is phenomenal as Howard. His performance brings depth to the standard movie creeper. He makes Howard interesting and not just unsettling. Goodman amplifies the already palpable tension the moment he pops up on screen. He’s a familiar face, warm and nonthreatening and at first that's great. Upon closer inspection though, he delivers unease in every glance. What he does with this role is perfection.
Dan Trachenberg (Director) builds upon a common unease right from the start. He lets that feeling wash over the audience and as it's sinking in, he begins to add layer upon layer of uncertainty. What Trachenberg does with this film is evoke a sense of panic deep within a fog of ambiguity. The best part is that he skillfully manages to hold onto that panic-laced adrenaline rush throughout the entire movie. I love getting excited for movie, but I especially like it when that rush extends right through to the closing credits. No. 10 Cloverfield Lane is not a sequel to the original Cloverfield. It's an excellent slice of high tension all on its own.
10 Cloverfield Lane – A
A = Movies this good don’t happen often and If you’re going to watch something, you should watch this. This is exactly what I go looking for when I go to the movies. I trust you’ll enjoy it if you keep an open mind.