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Movie Review ~ 10 Cloverfield Lane

10 Cloverfield Lane10 Cloverfield Lane, rated PG-13
*** ½

Though not specifically a sequel to the 2008 film Cloverfield (both of which are produced by J.J. Abrams), Abrams does call this new film a “spiritual successor” and “blood relative” to that one, while director Dan Trachtenberg, in his feature directorial debut, has said that 10 Cloverfield Lane doesn’t take place in the same universe as Cloverfield. The original title for the film was The Cellar.

The script was written by Josh Campbell and Matthew Stuecken and Oscar nominated (for Whiplash) Damien Chazelle. Bear McCreary’s music score effectively adds to the tense mood of the film.

As the film begins, we see Michelle, well portrayed by Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Nurse Mary Phinney in PBS’s new Mercy Street), having had an argument with her boyfriend (voiced by Bradley Cooper). She leaves New Orleans and begins driving to the country. We hear reports on the radio of mysterious power outages on the coast.


After Michelle is in a violent car accident, she wakes up in a small room clothed only in her underwear, with an IV in her arm, her knee in a brace and chained to the wall. She soon meets her captor Howard (John Goodman in a superb performance). Howard insists however that he means her no harm. Instead, she should be thankful that he has saved her life. He tells her that he saw her accident just as there was an explosion in the sky due to some kind of attack. It could be the Russians, Koreans or Martians, he doesn’t know. It’s like something you read in the Bible, he states. Is it really the end of the world?

He tells her that they are in a bunker he has built below the ground for just such an occasion, as the air outside is not safe to breath. They will have to remain there for perhaps a year or two before it will be safe to venture outside. Not to worry, Howard has been planning for this and he has everything they need (clean air, food, water, etc.) to survive.

Michelle soon finds that she and Howard are not alone. It appears that a young man named Emmett (John Gallagher Jr. in a good performance) is also being held captive by Howard. But Emmett, a neighbor of Howard’s, tells Michelle that is not the case. Just before Howard sealed the doors to the bunker, Emmett pleads to join Howard, as he had helped Howard build the bunker for just such an occasion.

So is Howard telling the truth, or is he a deranged captor? Soon, the three start to settle in, as we see them playing board games, watching movies and listening to music on Howard’s jukebox.

Throughout the film we hear noises above, outside of the bunker, inferring that there is life outside. We see Michelle and Emmett begin to collaborate together to escape the bunker. This is a great psychological thriller that takes an unexpected turn the final thirty minutes.

The film contains excellent performances by the three main characters, with the film being seen through Michelle’s eyes. In fact, we see very few other people in the entire film. It is rated PG-13 for the terror of being held captive, fear, frightening images, some violence, and a few expletives and misuses of God’s name. It is certainly not a movie for children to attend.