10 CLOVERFIELD LANE. Superb, tense science fiction thriller

A young woman wakes up after a car accident in a small, grimy room, which turns out to be part of an underground shelter.

Krzysztof Walecki

1 February 2024

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE. Superb science fiction thriller

Her ‘savior’ is an older man named Howard. He doesn’t explain why he had to handcuff her, but from his story, it appears that he pulled her out of the wrecked car at the moment of an attack of unknown origin, either chemical or nuclear. Hence the idea to seek refuge in a meticulously constructed, fully functional, and equipped shelter. Michelle also meets Emmett there, who helped build the bunker and has no reason not to believe Howard’s story, especially since he himself saw strange red lights signaling the disaster. However, the woman is more afraid of her benefactor than the end of the world he warns her about.

10 Cloverfield Lane resembles a sine wave – just like the main character, we constantly question everything we hear from Howard, only to be convinced of both his motives and the story a moment later. John Goodman plays the man, long unseen in such an ambiguous role. His performance immediately brings to mind his role in the Coen Brothers’ Barton Fink – his imposing and dominating posture makes us be on guard, although the childlike joy emanating from his face often suppresses our concerns. However, in Howard’s case, these concerns are completely justified, not only because of the puzzling situation Michelle finds herself in.

10 Cloverfield Lane John Goodman Mary Elizabeth Winstead John Gallagher Jr.

Wouldn’t doubt arise first if we heard about a supposed nuclear attack and the need to spend a year or two in a shelter with completely strangers?

The film, directed by debutant Dan Trachtenberg, relies on this distrust and lack of certainty, although the fear of terrorism seems absent here. The reason for this is Howard himself, attributing the attack to Russian actions or… Martians. After such a declaration, it’s hard to believe Michelle in everything she hears.

10 Cloverfield Lane John Goodman Mary Elizabeth Winstead John Gallagher Jr.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead, long unseen on the big screen, plays the woman – honesty written on her face and resourcefulness that never leaves her make it easy for us to identify with her. Especially since the situation she finds herself in is cruelly ironic, and regardless of what she does – trust the host or not – she can only make it worse. The third occupant of the shelter, Emmett, has no problems with this. A young man believing in Howard’s sincere intentions, yet aware of his explosive nature and cosmic beliefs. John Gallagher Jr., playing him, has a simple and friendly face suggesting that in a confrontation with Goodman’s character, he may turn out to be a useful ally.

However, in the end, this psychological thriller turns into something completely different. But maybe not so unpredictable.

10 Cloverfield Lane John Goodman Mary Elizabeth Winstead John Gallagher Jr.

10 Cloverfield Lane is an interesting case of a film whose titular connection to the Cloverfield from 2008 works both for and against Trachtenberg’s plot. Given that the previous film told the story of a group of friends navigating through the war-torn New York, attacked by a giant monster, it’s hard to see any plot connections with the new title. Both films also differ stylistically – the found footage aesthetics and the spectacle of action cinema have been abandoned in favor of a intimate and traditionally made thriller. The memory of the predecessor prompts expectations of fantastical elements and references, which in itself can be detrimental. Those who demand exactly that may feel disappointed. However, those going for a tension-filled drama of three characters confined in a small space will also be ‘rewarded’ in a way that may not necessarily please them.

10 Cloverfield Lane John Goodman Mary Elizabeth Winstead John Gallagher Jr.

The ending makes the movie, say my very good friends, and in the case of 10 Cloverfield Lane, it’s hard not to agree. Without giving anything away, I will say that the last twenty minutes didn’t completely convince me, although the sight of Winstead fleeing from an attacker, dressed in a homemade jumpsuit made from a shower curtain, provides a lot of self-aware fun. At that moment, the intentions of the creators become clear, deciding to provide viewers with entertaining twists, building the plot twist in a style reminiscent of the famous Twilight Zone. The duck on the main character’s suit seems to be laughing not only at us but probably above all with us.