The first question most people ask about this movie is whether or not it is a sequel to 2008’s film Cloverfield. In short, yes, but the focus of this film is, as the tagline suggests, monsters come in many forms.
10 Cloverfield Lane begins with Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) packing up her things and leaving for the countryside after having an argument with her boyfriend. Along the way she gets ran off the road and wakes in a concrete cellar, injured and her leg handcuffed to the wall. She believes she has been captured by a man named Howard (John Goodman), yet he explains to her there was an attack in the cities and he found her and brought her back to his doomsday shelter to save her. The rest of the film examines the question: is Howard right?
Was there really an attack? Is it really dangerous outside? Is Howard really who he seems to be?
This is not a scary horror film in the way Cloverfield was. Rather, the tension comes from the dynamics of the group as they go on living in the bunker. We find out the other occupant, Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr), broke his arm trying to get into Howard’s bunker because he was so afraid of the attack. Yet Michelle is not entirely convinced all is what it seems, and she spends most of the film manipulating the group dynamics and getting under Howard’s skin trying to escape. On more than one occasion though, Michelle and the audience’s confidence is rattled because we just are not sure what is going on both above and within the bunker.
John Goodman gives a terrific performance here, not like anything else I have seen him play before. In some scenes, he is sweet and caring. Yet in many others he can become aggressive and paranoid. You want to trust Howard, but something just does not add up. Much of the tension in the film comes from him and how he reacts to the other characters. After seeing the film though, you can understand his motivations and appreciate the subtlety in Goodman’s performance.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead also does a great job, being both strong and vulnerable as she tries to sum up the situation. She is never convinced Howard is being straightforward and she uses every advantage she can create to exploit the situation to her advantage from the very beginning. John Gallagher, Jr does well with the material he has, yet his role is basically to add tension to the group dynamics. Howard is always irritated about having Emmett there, which only adds to the tension as the film progresses.
Much of this film plays out like a classic Hitchcock movie, where the tension is left to simmer before boiling over in the last 20-minutes of the film. Rest assured, everything does get explained in these last few minutes.
It is good going into this film not sure what to expect. Yes, it is a sequel to Cloverfield but not necessarily in a way you might expect (the clue comes in Howard’s speech about invasion tactics). The film is tense and focuses on the question of what is really going on both above and within the bunker. Both Goodman and Winstead give great performances here as their characters inevitably come into more intense conflict. I would not see this film in IMAX though, not worth the extra money. Yet it is still a film worth seeing, but it is a thriller and not a horror film.