The fallout scenario is nothing to new to Sci-Fi fans. We have seen a multitude of TV shows play out the pros and cons of locking yourself into a fallout shelter, all to survive whatever apocalypse the writer has come up with. Now from producer JJ Abrams and Bad Robot comes a film that ties their found footage sci-fi/ horror film Cloverfield (2008) to that kind of story. The question at hand: Is this a sequel? Yes. The second and probably more important question: Do I need to see the original before I check out 10 Cloverfield Lane? The answer is, no.
After leaving her fiancé, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is in a horrible car accident. She awakens to find her wounds attended to, but she is handcuffed to a wall. Howard (John Goodman) informs her that he saved her life, the world, as she knew it is gone, and they are in his doomsday shelter. Right off the bat, Michelle needs more convincing than this man’s word. What is amazing, based on the trailer (seen below), is that you think you know how this story is going to go. Michelle will believe him, play nice, never really trust Howard, and then make a break for it to learn the truth. However, there is so much more to 10 Cloverfield Lane and it comes in the performances.
Too often we hear, “Where are the good strong female characters?” Winstead’s Michelle leaves her fiancé for reasons known only to her, to find herself stuck down the rabbit hole. Howard becomes both her savior and keeper. Despite Howard’s assurances, Michelle needs to learn the truth for herself. We see Michelle manipulate both Howard and Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), another person Howard saved, to get exactly what she wants. This is not done with her sexuality, but with word play and subtle gestures. What agitates the scenario is Howard’’s impatience. Goodman plays a perfect steam kettle ready to boil over, but keeps things in check until he needs to make his point. Emmett, the fool of the group, is the perfect match to make Howard boil over. Why that is, is something you have to discover in watching the film.
There is a truth to be learned by Michelle about the world above. Once that happens, the film becomes a montage of good times and fun. The reality of the characters’ situation is that they know nothing about what has happened on the surface. Events lead Michelle to learn that the three of them were not the only ones to live in the shelter. The film practically resets itself to give us that feeling of uneasiness, where now Michelle and Emmett must work together to escape. This scene is played out well by both Winstead and Gallagher as they speak of regrets for their lives. Despite the world ending, those regrets are still hard to live with. Not knowing the truth is a regret they simply cannot with.
The film delivers a great deal of tension, humor, and, above all, suspense. One could easily pick apart a few things about the film after seeing its conclusion. However, if you think about it, those few things are actually clues as to what lies in store for Michelle. If you are looking for a tie to the original Cloverfield, it does come. Yet, you will have more questions than answers when it is over. It appears that JJ Abrams and Bad Robot are supplying moviegoers with more questions than answers these days. I, for one, am for films of this nature. They keep you thinking long after the credits, and make going (yes, actually going) to the movies fun. Then again, with Abrams, it will probably be eight more years until we see another Cloverfield film. [review]