Review: ‘10 Cloverfield Lane’ Houses a Survivalist, His Captive and Jolts


Mary Elizabeth Winstead in “10 Cloverfield Lane.”

Michele K. Short/Paramount Pictures

10 Cloverfield Lane” demands to be seen before reading a single review. So I plan to divulge even less than its makers, whose hype-by-omission campaign — which included a late title change to summon fans of J. J. Abrams’s hurtling thriller “Cloverfield” (2008) — seems unnecessarily manipulative.

But Mr. Abrams, who returns as a producer here and leaves the directing to Dan Trachtenberg, is nothing if not a savvy salesman. Luckily, he has something worth peddling: “10 Cloverfield Lane” might have cost little more to put together than a season of “Survivor” (the budget permitted Bradley Cooper’s voice, though not, alas, the rest of him), but the movie is a master class on narrative pacing and carefully managed jolts.

The first of these occurs almost immediately, a truly unnerving incident that leaves Michelle (a smashing Mary Elizabeth Winstead) chained to a bed in an underground bunker. Her captor — savior? — is Howard (John Goodman), a dour survivalist who informs her that the world has been depopulated by some kind of chemical or nuclear attack. Howard suspects Russians or Martians; Michelle suspects that he’s nuts.

Employing a playlike setup and an unflinching camera (Jeff Cutter’s cinematography is miraculously lucid), the filmmakers lean heavily on Mr. Goodman’s disconcerting performance and Ms. Winstead’s spunky resolve. John Gallagher Jr. works wonders with his underwritten role as the bunker’s third resident, and pops of 1960s tunes add a creepy nostalgia.

Sneakily tweaking our fears of terrorism, “10 Cloverfield Lane,” though no more than a kissing cousin to its namesake, is smartly chilling and finally spectacular. A sequel is virtually a given.

”10 Cloverfield Lane” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). Barrel of acid, a whole heap of destruction.


Movie Review: ‘10 Cloverfield Lane’

The Times critic Jeannette Catsoulis reviews “10 Cloverfield Lane.”

By AINARA TIEFENTHÄLER and ROBIN LINDSAY on Publish Date March 10, 2016.

Photo by Paramount Pictures.

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