Words by Matt Poe
“10 Cloverfield Lane” (2016)
Poe’s Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5 (Gold, Jerry. Gold!)
A woman awakens from a car accident and finds herself trapped in a remote bunker. There, two men tell her a chemical attack has rendered the outside world inhabitable.
Category: Thriller, Horror, Sci-Fi
Rated PG-13 for thematic material including frightening sequences of threat with some violence and brief language
Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman and John Gallagher Jr.
Written by Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken and Damien Chazelle
Welcome back, friends, to another rousing edition of Poe’s Picks. In the previous edition, I made the earth-shattering announcement that the blog would now debut films featured on HBO Go and HBO on Demand to help broaden our viewing horizons. So far, it’s gone swimmingly; and yet, there’s more.
Our film today comes from Amazon Prime, another wildly popular streaming service that I’m sure all you young whippersnappers have heard of. You damn kids and your infinite amount of streaming services; In my day, we had three channels and if the knob fell off the TV, you were screwed!
With the addition of Amazon Prime, I’ve reached peak streaming. I’ve become a gluttonous hog for all streaming devices, a prize-winning hog plump and filled to the brim with thousands of movies at my disposal. No longer am I the runt of the litter, tied to only Netflix: I’m now the biggest hog in the pen and the world is my trough.
OK, that got a little out of hand. Anyway, today’s movie is a good one. You have my word on that. Come along now, little piggies, we must make haste (God, I’ve really lost my damn mind).
You may recall that the original “Cloverfield” debuted back in 2008 in what seemed like a much simpler time. I remember it came out when I was in middle school and as a 13-year-old pre-adolescent boy, this was a prime film to head to the theater for one of those first boy/girl movie “dates.” Alas, I did no such thing and to make matters worse, never actually saw the original “Cloverfield.”
I do know some lauded it, while others hated both its story and shaky camera work. “10 Cloverfield Lane,” from what I’ve heard, is neither a prequel nor a sequel but rather a similar concept drafted into its own standalone film. And thankfully, there’s none of that shaky camera work here.
It begins with Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) packing her things after a fight with her boyfriend. We don’t get to witness the aforementioned fight, but we clearly learn things aren’t well between Michelle and her boyfriend, Ben (an interesting surprise credit you may want to look up).
Michelle decides to leave town because that’s what she does best when shit hits the fan, or so she says. But on her way out of town that night, she’s the victim of a severe car crash on a country road that renders her unconscious. She awakens to find herself chained in a basement in who-the-hell-knows-where, along with a broken leg that limits her mobility.
That’s when she meets Howard (John Goodman), the man whom the basement belongs to. He explains that a major attack from some extraterrestrial lifeform or some warring country (here’s looking at you, North Korea and Russia) has occurred and he cannot let her leave, for it would put all their lives in danger.
Michelle, believing she may be the victim of an assault or worse, isn’t buying it. But after a series of events, Michelle begins to believe maybe Howard is telling the truth. Or, he could be bluffing and holding her captive like some demented lunatic.
Is Howard telling the truth? That’s for you to find out, dear reader. I will say I was thoroughly surprised by how much I enjoyed this film. I watched the first half of it on a flight back from Atlanta and then finished it when I got back home. It’s an enjoyable mix of horror, science fiction and mystery that will keep you guessing until the literal end, with a breakthrough performance by Winstead.
She’s incredible as our heroine who must make a life or death decision: stay with Howard and possibly suffer at his hands, or attempt to escape and see what’s happened to the outside world. Her performance carries the film and I’m looking forward to seeing her combination of beauty and brains in other films to come; she’s terrific.
Goodman, meanwhile, enhances any film he appears in. He’s become one of Hollywood’s most seasoned actors, seamlessly jumping from serious films to comedies and sprinkling in a nice surprise like this one as well. This Howard is a wild man, one that neither Michelle nor the audience can pinpoint as to what his true motives may be. That ruffled voice of his works wonders in this bad boy.
As I’ve stated many times on the ye olde blog, I’m a sci-fi junkie. That being said, I love sci-fi movies like this that combine a variety of elements and themes, especially ones that are semi-plausible and take place on earth. Take the setup of the movie as an example: Almost 80 percent of the film takes place in this one bunker, allowing the bunker itself to become a major character.
We learn about its strengths and weaknesses and it stages the film much like a game of cat and mouse. The fact that it’s a well-written script, not too long nor too short, helps mightily and the twists that are incorporated are really rather thought-provoking for a movie that may seem otherwise.
Anyway, I’ve already explained enough. Driven by Winstead’s bad ass performance, “10 Cloverfield Lane” is a movie that’s best to go into knowing as little as possible, so much so that I almost didn’t want to do a Poe’s Picks on it. Too late for that, dummy!
I recommend watching this one late at night on the couch with your significant other because it really is a great date movie. Or watch it with your dudes or dudettes, if you aren’t so lucky in the love department. Above all, just watch this thing. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
And disturbed. You may be a little disturbed (but that’s a good thing).
Until next time.
In good movies we trust,
Matt ‘Roger Ebert wishes he was half the film critic I am’ Poe