10 Cloverfield Lane

Have you ever had a family vacation that started out great but ended with drama, sickness or catastrophe? 

This is how I felt about the ending of 10 Cloverfield Lane, there was a ‘wait a minute, everything was going so well just a while ago, when did it all go sideways?’ moment. 

The trailer struck me as a quirky sci-fi version of last year’s Oscar nominated Room, so I really wasn’t sure what to expect - the upbeat music showing people doing puzzles and peacefully playing games was strangely juxtaposed with what seemed to be horrific outside circumstances. 

I’m not a fan of horror films but am always game for a thriller, and 10 Cloverfield Lane did not disappoint me in that regard. There are moments in this film that will make you jump, so be sure to lay off the beverages before you sit down.

The plot in the beginning is pretty straightforward. A young woman, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), awakes from a car accident to discover that she is now captive in an underground bunker owned by a cryptic survivalist Howard (John Goodman), who will only tell her that there has been an attack on humanity of some kind, and the air outside is poisoned and will kill them. He also implies that they are very likely some of the last surviving humans. 

I applaud the casting director for putting John Goodman in this role, as he underplays Howard brilliantly. It’s a bit of a dirty trick getting such a likeable actor to play a villain, and our willingness to believe the best in Howard is an important factor to the mystery and tension that builds in the film.  

It’s worth mentioning that also living in the bunker is a young guy, Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), who helped Howard build the bunker and who “fought Howard to get in” when the invasion happened, which lends credibility to Howard’s doomsday story. 

Not much else is revealed, but Emmett’s arm is in a sling and it is clear that Howard doesn’t want him there. Gallagher is a long time Broadway actor, but you might recognize him from guest appearances on several TV dramas. He plays Emmett with a simple sweetness that is an effective contrast to Howard’s quixotic temper.

About 85% of the movie takes place underground in the bunker. Only one room feels like a concrete cell (Michelle’s bedroom). The rest of the bunker is bright, homey and equipped with enough food, movies, games, books, and puzzles to last for several years. 

Despite the comfortable environment, it is Howard’s sudden outbursts of rage and controlling nature that creates an atmosphere of constant tension that pervades the space and ultimately drives Michelle to attempt a desperate escape (willing to take her chances outside).

Nothing is quite as it seems, and information is slowly and tantalizingly doled out to us as the action creeps forward in the confined space. I won’t say anything more about the plot and if you’re going to see the film, avoid any spoilers (you’ll thank me). Suffice to say, several clues as to who Michelle can trust are sprinkled throughout the film (specifically, via the well crafted soundtrack and several visual references).

There were a few moments in the film that genuinely surprised me, and kudos to first time director Dan Trachtenberg for keeping our attention riveted in a very limited space. There is lots to like about this movie. That said, the premise of the movie sets us up for some pretty big ideas about the survivalist mentality that are never addressed. I was sad that more wasn’t done to help us understand Howard, as doing so could have elevated this movie and created a more meaningful theme.

The end of the movie was completely preposterous, and actually had me snickering in places. In fact, the lead character actually says, “Are you effing kidding me?” which was exactly what I was thinking. ”Where did this movie come from? It wasn’t the movie I was watching five minutes ago!" 

Apparently, this film was originally called The Cellar, and it was J.J. Abrams who changed the ending to dovetail the movie into the Cloverfield franchise. A smart marketing move, and an obvious sequel lead-in, but it sure didn’t make for an impactful movie ending. 

Despite the interesting ride, I was happy when this family vacation train wreck finally came to its end. 

Movie locations and times  

I give this movie . . .


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About the Author

Kim Foreman-Rhindress is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City and London Western Conservatory of music for piano and voice. 

Kim has been performing in theatre and film for over 30 years in Canada, NYC, Palm Beach, Los Angeles, and the Netherlands. She has written several plays which have been produced in Canada and the U.S., and is the founder of Kelowna Voice Lab - helping people find their voice, be it singing or acting. 

A working musician, she performs regularly in Kelowna with her husband, Jim Rhindress, in an acoustic duo Smitten, and with her vintage trio Kitsch 'n Sync.  

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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