10 Cloverfield Lane, directed by Dan Trachtenberg, originally began as a script entitled The Cellar. Eventually it was turned into the sneakily announced film, with zero hint, and we are told it’s part of the Cloverfield universe but not a direct sequel. Based on the film I viewed, I’m assuming the original script was the first two thirds of this film and the last part was the tie in. The original Cloverfield was released in 2008 and was very successful, although it hasn’t really had much staying power, so this tie in is a little weird—who was clamoring for more Cloverfield?
In this film, Howard (John Goodman) is in a bunker with accident victim, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and willing participant, Emmett (John Gallagher Jr). The question is, is Goodman an eccentric bomb shelter nut, whose dream of Armageddon preparedness came true, or is he a lying psychopath? That’s the conflict and the payoff is good and bad. I loved this movie up until the last act. The acting was solid, the tension was tight and the back and forth between wondering if Goodman’s behaviors are right or wrong can lead to many post-film discussions. Definitely watch this, it has my recommendation. The tie in to Cloverfield is a bit of a cheat, but who cares? Ninety percent of films are cash grabs anyway. I’m just glad to see a good cash grab film amongst the usual shit. Now, onto spoilers.
After a car accident, Michelle wakes up with a knee brace on and handcuffed to a bed in Howard’s bunker. He informs her that his worst fear has come true, where something has occurred and they can no longer go outside. The air isn’t safe and for at least a year or two they are stuck down in the trench. Howard shortly reveals himself to be an uptight control freak and as the film unravels, we discover more about his character. The divulge causes chaos in the bunker, which forces Michelle to go above ground and face whatever is up there. About forty minutes in, we find out Howard is right and something has occurred, but we don’t know exactly what. Michelle escapes and discovers it wasn’t a manmade threat, but an other worldly threat. She battles the aliens and goes on to join a rebel force to continue fighting.
My issues with the film can be addressed. Everything up to her leaving the bunker worked perfectly, but once she leaves, the film shifts gears extremely and all logic falls out the window. Viewers are led to believe that Michelle can combat an alien spaceship by simply creating a Molotov cocktail and she can survive a fall from a great height in her vehicle without zero injury. Now, I do normally suspend logic in a lot of genre films—if I didn’t, I would tear my hair out. In a film that is so smart for the first two acts, I won’t forgive it. The fact that Michelle moves on to a relatively happy ending by joining a group to fight an alien invasion makes it worse. The film went from a dark creepy isolated location film, to Independence Day. This did not not work. The only way the last act would have worked is if once she saw the aliens and was immediately whacked by them. Dead. Credits roll. That ending would have been abrupt and unexpected and it would have kept up with the tone that was previously set. Even though I had a major issue with the final act, everything leading up to it was superb and see this film winding up on a year’s end “best of” list.