10 Cloverfield Lane: John Goodman's Best(man) Foot Forward
10 Cloverfield Lane is best experienced in IMAX. Long after the movie ends, it will be difficult for you to escape the grip of adrenaline. (TBH I’ve been cleaning my house for like an hour after watching it.)
Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) leaves her fiancé and her home and drives through the night. Her car crashes, rendering her unconscious. She awakens in a bunker under the care of Howard (John Goodman), a fatherly doomsday prepper and former member of the U.S. Navy. Howard and Emmett tell her that there’s been an alien attack and she must not leave the bunker, or contaminated air will kill her. She befriends Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.), another survivor of the attack who helped Howard construct the bunker. But Michelle suspects that Howard, despite his best efforts, is not what he seems, and that he and Emmett lied to her about the attack.
Although it shares many similarities with the original Cloverfield movie on paper—aliens, destruction, etc.—it is by no means a sequel or a spinoff. Still, 10 Cloverfield Lane still manipulates our fear of the unknown. (I did not see Cloverfield before seeing 10 Cloverfield Lane and still enjoyed 10 Cloverfield immensely—they occur in similar but independent universes.) It’s a finely tuned science fiction thriller, with sublime moments for those who relish both unapologetic spectacle (I’m amazed that they pull that off, and in the year of Mad Max: Fury Road¸ no less) and more intimate moments of friendship.
Although Miss Winstead spends the most time guiding us through the film, any praise for this movie really belongs with John Goodman. John Goodman’s performance as Howard is the best performance of the year so far and one of the best of his career. Goodman has spent years proving his range as a performer, even within villainous roles (his turn in Inside Llewyn Davis as a crumbling, smacked-out jazz musician comes to mind), so I’m glad to finally see him get his due. In 10 Cloverfield Lane, he is note-perfect, behaving suspiciously enough for us to condemn him, but gradually becoming relatable for us to feel bad about it. This guilt slowly ebbs away and deep-seeded vindication returns—we knew it ALL ALONG. This makes sense when you remember that Damien Chazelle (writer-director of Whiplash, where J.K. Simmons inadvertently conditioned us all to cower in the face of the yellow M&M and Farmers Insurance commercials) shares some of the script credit.
I don’t want to give too much away, so I will just say that the climax of this movie will both satisfy your curiosity and leave you with an adrenaline buzz that’s nearly impossible to shake. Add to that an impeccable sound design which refuses to let the film’s single-bunker set slow it down, and some spectacular visual effects, and you’ve got a perfect summer hit. Now you’ll have more than one reason to ask if it’s summer yet. 10 Cloverfield Lane, directed by Dan Trachtenberg and produced by J.J. Abrams, opens March 11 in theaters everywhere.