10 Cloverfield Lane

10 Cloverfield Lane

2016, PG-13, 105 min. Directed by Dan Trachtenberg. Starring John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr., Douglas M. Griffin, Suzanne Cryer.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., March 18, 2016

I like to be surprised going into a movie. Who doesn’t, apart from fans of Pauly Shore and Adam Sandler? Like a lot of filmgoers, I struggle to avoid the many-tentacled, pre-release marketing onslaught that too often raises audience expectations to frankly impossible levels. (I’m talking to you, Marvel Studios.) So when I first viewed the total freaking enigma that announced 10 Cloverfield Lane’s upcoming release, my curiosity was piqued – and then some. J.J. Abrams’ company Bad Robot produced, which is nearly always a good sign in my book, despite the fanboy-fueled blowback for The Force Awakens. But what was this mystery movie that arrived, kinda-sorta, out of nowhere? Would it be a sequel to the Abrams-produced, Matt Reeves-directed Cloverfield, in which a Brobdingnagian daikaiju levels NYC? Or a prequel, maybe? Sometimes silence and secrecy are the best strategies, buzz-wise, and 10 Cloverfield Lane is a perfect example of that. I do not say this lightly: The less you know going in to 10 Cloverfield Lane, the more fun you’ll have.

Here are the spoiler-free basics: Michelle (Winstead, owning the role), a young woman with guy problems, is involved in a car crash on a dark and lonely stretch of two-lane blacktop. She awakens in a drab cinder-block cell, chained to the wall. Enter mountain-man survivalist Howard (Goodman, owning the world), who explains that the two of them are “safe” in his homey, apocalypse-proof, subterranean bunker. According to Howard, there’s either been a nuclear or chemical event or alien invasion topside, which wiped out the rest of the population. As Goodman plays him, Howard radiates a barely contained rage (at what we’re not sure) that manifests itself in increasingly alarming ways. The shelter’s other occupant, Howard’s neighbor Emmett (Gallagher Jr.) is something of a mystery, also.

10 Cloverfield Lane is a cinematic puzzle box that rewards your patience with three standout performances; a memorable, nerve-jangling score by composer Bear McCreary; and an escalating sense of disorienting confusion: The bunker’s occupants aren’t the only ones wondering exactly what the hell is going on topside. The film stumbles a bit in the end, when the exact nature of the perils within and without are made clear, but up until that point, 10 Cloverfield Lane is scarily suspenseful stuff.

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10 Cloverfield Lane, Dan Trachtenberg, John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr., Douglas M. Griffin, Suzanne Cryer

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