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10 Cloverfield Lane Review

The latest entry in what is apparently the mysterious Cloverfield franchise is full of surprises, none of which I plan to spoil. However, here’s a brief spoiler-free pre-review, just in case I mention something about the movie of which you had yet to become aware. 

Three people—Howard (John Goodman), Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who was so great in Athens native James Ponsoldt’s also excellent Smashed) and Emmett (John Gallagher Jr., HBO’s “The Newsroom”)—are coexisting in a bunker. The film successfully layers and reveals its mysteries, while the actors, especially Goodman, provide believable, three-dimensional performances typically expected of serious dramas, not genre fare, even if it is above-average genre fare. Stop reading now and go see 10 Cloverfield Lane if you have yet to do so.

I assume those of you sticking around have seen the movie or don’t care about “spoilers,” which I still hope to avoid. If you want a little more info about this mysterious thriller before plunking down your hard-earned ticket money, here you go. While leaving her boyfriend beyond, Michelle is in a car accident. She wakes up in a bunker where a seemingly nutty man named Howard tells her the outside world as she knew it is gone. A young man named Emmett seconds the tragic news. 

The rest of director Dan Trachtenberg’s debut feature doles out the truth of Michelle’s situation with tension and shock. Goodman constantly keeps you guessing; he gets a lot of mileage out of some very minor facial tics and subtle line delivery. Winstead is a credibly capable genre heroine. 

I keep using the term “genre” without specifying which because another of 10 Cloverfield Lane’s strengths is its meshing of multiple genres, thanks to the script, co-written by Academy Award nominee Damien Chazelle. Is it horror, sci-fi, thriller or all of them? Pinning the film down is even harder after seeing it than before. 2016 has another great film. I wonder what producer J.J. Abrams has in store next for his Cloverfield brand.