10 Cloverfield Lane Review (**** out of 5)

BookIt’s unfortunate that modern movie marketing has ruined the surprise and suspense that comes with seeing a new movie. It feels like every movie these days needs to show you the first %90 of the film in the trailers because they aren’t confident enough in their teasing to get butts into seats. Do audiences really need to be shown the majority of a movie before they decide they want to go see it? It seems like long lost days that a marketing campaign asked us “What is the Matrix?” or showed us a Bruce Willis thriller about a boy who sees dead people and left it at that, or even the original Cloverfield campaign that only let us know that the Statue of Liberty gets destroyed at one point.

The reason I bring this up is that 10 Cloverfield Lane is that same very kind of movie, where knowing next to nothing is the best way to approach the movie. I knew barely anything outside of the cast, title, and very basic premise going into the movie. I have the excellent marketing campaign to thank for that. In that spirit, I’ll try and keep things completely spoiler free in this review.

 With that said, go see this movie! It is the small, bare bones psychological thriller that emphasizes mood and claustrophobia over big budget special effects and empty headed action set pieces, and it’s all the richer for it.

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The basic plot has Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) fleeing her bad marriage with an unseen Bradley Cooper when she’s involved in a car accident on the side of the road. She blacks out and is woken in a concrete cellar by a hulking John Goodman, who casually informs her that there has been some kind of attack on the surface, that she can’t leave this bunker because of contaminated air that is killing everything on the surface. They’re joined by one other fellow who managed to allow Goodman to let him enter the shelter when the alleged attack took place. 

Try as hard as you can to not learn anything more than that heading into the movie. Is John Goodman a crazy man who abducted Michelle? What is really going on above ground? Was there even actually an attack? Who is the third man in the bunker with them really? The movie is loaded with red herrings without actually cheating the audience. It knows what you expect as a movie goer seeing a film with Cloverfield in the title, and it joyfully subverts those expectations again and again.

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While Cloverfield was a huge big budget thriller that showed us a monster destroying New York City from ground level, 10 Cloverfield Lane shares more in common with small mind bending thrillers like Cube, Panic Room, or the original Saw film. Just a small handful of people making the best of a horrifying situation while trapped in a small space together. 

The interplay between the characters is what really makes the movie work, and all three main actors give fantastic performances that will have you questioning their motives and thought processes throughout the film. Goodman in particular is excellent as a lonely man who alternates between extremely menacing and strangely sympathetic. Winstead is also very good as the girl who wants to trust Goodman at his word, but is savvy enough to realise that not all is what it seems to be.

Without giving anything away, I was a big fan of the climax of the film, but I could definitely see how others might be left cold and wanting by how the story plays out in its final moments. I personally felt satisfied by the open ending that leaves room for interpretation. If you don’t like it when movies like Inception or Fight Club or countless horror films give you an ending that makes you question the reality of the film, you might be equally disappointed here. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I saw it.

All in all, 10 Cloverfield Lane is well worth your time and money to see it in the theatre. See it before someone spoils it for you! It’s a tense, exciting thriller, the kind of which doesn’t get made much anymore. This is the kind of movie we’ll still be talking about ten years down the road. When was the last time you talked or thought about the most recent Godzilla film?

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I give 10 Cloverfield Lane four shadowy figures in the distance out of five.

Did you see 10 Cloverfield Lane? What did you think of it? Be sure to check back every Wednesday for a new musing on Pop Culture! Also, be sure to check out the SzteinCreative Facebook page for more photos, music, and movie chat!

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