Family Movie Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane (PG-13)

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10CloverfieldLane ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewKernel Rating (out of 5): whole popcorn kernalwhole popcorn kernalwhole popcorn kernal

MPAA Rating: PG-13         Length: 105 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 13+. This film is set in the same universe as the 2008 sci-fi horror film “Cloverfield,” so there is a variety of violence, including a brutal car accident, various characters who die (one is contaminated by toxic air, one by acid, one by gunshot), some goriness and grossness (including a character whose body is partially melted by acid, some gunsplatter, and some other gruesome images), some cursing, some flirting, and some scenes of a woman in her underwear.

Set in the same universe as the 2008 monster-focused blockbuster, ‘10 Cloverfield Lane’ focuses tightly on a trio of survivors. There are definitely fears and tension here, but the ending feels like a foregone conclusion.

By Roxana Hadadi

“10 Cloverfield Lane” is almost disingenuous. This sci-fi thriller, set in the same universe as 2008’s smash hit “Cloverfield,” about a mysterious monster that goes about destroying New York City, seems related to its predecessor in name only. There are really only a couple of things narratively linking this movie to that previous blockbuster, but there are thrills and scares here will creep viewers out anyway.

In “Cloverfield,” a gigantic, alien-like entity appears out of nowhere after a power outage, going on a rampage throughout New York City and killing dozens of people; the U.S. government referred to that incident and all others related to it as “Cloverfield.” In “10 Cloverfield Lane,” we see one of those related incidents, and all the pieces seem familiar: a power outage, a deadly effect on the environment, and a life form that certainly isn’t anything we’ve ever seen before. But this time around, there is no found-footage to prove the reality of what’s happening; instead, we’re aligned with a woman who wakes up trapped in a bunker, with no idea of why she’s there, being told by her captor that the world outside is falling apart.

That woman is Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, of “A Good Day to Die Hard”), who after breaking up with her fiancé is run off the road in a terrible car accident. Some time later, she wakes up in an underground cellar, trapped by the frightening, intimidating Howard (John Goodman, of “Love the Coopers”), who tells her a story she can’t believe: that they’re under attack (either by “Ruskis” or “Martians”), that the air outside is poisoned and she can’t leave, and that she should be grateful that he saved her from her wreck. “You’re lucky to be here at all,” he keeps repeating to her, and he almost nonchalantly mentions that “everyone outside of here is dead.”

But is Howard to be believed? Michelle has doubts, nearly certain that he’s just a crazy person who has captured her—maybe to sexually assault her, maybe to torture her, maybe to kill her. Her fears, though, aren’t shared by the other person in the bunker, Emmett (John Gallagher Jr., of “Jonah Hex”), a country boy who helped Howard build the bunker some years ago. Emmett saw something unexplainable, and he forced Howard into letting him in. “Howard’s like a black belt in conspiracy theory,” Emmett says, and he’s willing to believe that if they leave the bunker, they’ll die.

The description used for “10 Cloverfield Lane” is that there are “different kinds of monsters,” and from the beginning it’s clear that Howard isn’t exactly what he says he is. What the film does well is ratchet up the tension with him, shooting Goodman so he looks fantastically physically intimidating and providing him with plenty of opportunities to be unnerving. The trio dabbles in domesticity—doing puzzles, reading outdated magazines—but they never really settle, and the film draws you into that uneasiness.

It helps that Winstead and Gallagher have an easy rapport that makes a friendship between them believable, and they’re good foils for Goodman when he says hilariously unaware things like “I know I seem like a sensible guy.” But where “10 Cloverfield Lane” ends up disappointing is its conclusion, which feels tacked on to maintain the “Cloverfield” connection. The final 15 minutes, while exciting, have practically nothing to do with the movie that came before, and that makes “10 Cloverfield Lane” ultimately feel a little bit like an engaging—but undeniable—con.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.