Claustrophobia and paranoia pervades Dan Trachtenberg’s 10 Cloverfield Lane, a survivalist thriller set in a bomb shelter, in the American south. It’d be a shame to spoil the opening—perhaps the best part of the movie. Suffice it to say, the setup is a woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) finding herself trapped in a bomb shelter with two men (John Gallagher Jr. and John Goodman) after an apocalypse may or may not have happened. Unless John Goodman is speaking, 10 Cloverfield Lane is best when no one is speaking, summoning dread through music cues and stirring closeups (Bear McCreary scored; Jeff Cutter DPed). The cutesy PG-13 comically sentimental banter between Winstead and Gallagher’s well-meaning, nebbish Mr. Nice Guy are a drag. With the exception of these lame digressions, the movie has plenty of kick, offering twists and turns and tension. Although Steven Spielberg wasn’t directly involved (though his protege, J.J. Abrams, produced), in tone and style, the movie has Spielberg’s stamp all over it, with Mary Elizabeth Winstead doing plenty of Spielberg face. Ultimately, 10 Cloverfield Lane is, to use the hackneyed expression, “a rollercoaster ride”—best experienced in the dark with a crowd, on a big screen with a powerful sound system.
By Alex Julian & Carrie White