10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
I do not think it is that much of a secret that movie series end up getting made up as they go along. After all, if George Lucas had any idea where his story was really going when he wrote it in the early 1970s, I highly doubt he would have had Luke Skywalker making out with his sister. Down the line the movies that make up a series can seem much different than what they were simply because, in most cases, there really wasn't any expectation that there would ever be another movie.
Cloverfield was one of those films. The 2008 film combined elements of kaiju movies, found footage and other alien invasion tropes that had a giant monster make its way through New York. Unless Godzilla was going to appear at some time to go mano-a-mano with the Cloverfield monster then that was about it. It did good box office numbers, was talked about quite a bit and was accepted as being a flawed, but important, entry in the giant monster genre of films.
10 Cloverfield Lane began life as The Cellar, largely with most of the plot as it is, although it was retooled to tenuously connect with the same universe as Cloverfield after it was bought by producer J. J. Abrams. With that also came a little bit more money to make the ending look like it belongs in not only in the same world, but also looks like the type of stuff Abrams likes - just without lens flares every few seconds, since he only produced it and gave it to someone else to direct.
After leaving her boyfriend Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is driving through a rural part of Louisiana when she is involved in a traffic accident. She wakes up in the bunker of a man named Howard (John Goodman), who informs her that they and another resident named Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) are the only survivors of an attack by unknown forces. Howard has been building the bunker for decades getting ready for just such an event.
Michelle is immediately suspicious, thinking that nothing really happened and that Howard has abducted her. It soon becomes apparent to her that something is wrong with the outside world, and she begins to accept her fate. That is, until it becomes apparent that she and Emmett may not have been the first of Howard's guests.
Although there is a definite science fiction element to the film, as something has rendered the outside air toxic, much of the film deals with the situation Michelle has found herself in. Without spoiling things so much I will say that that I am thankful that Emmett wasn't a sexual predator; it is pretty much a cliché to make the extra male in a bunker situation into such, thus creating a situation in which the female has to be protected, hopefully throwing the viewer off that the person in charge may be just as bad. Instead, Emmett is not very bright, but he is friendly and well-meaning, and he also provides a sense of normalcy for Michelle. John Gallagher Jr. does a good job providing this type of anchor character.
Whether Howard's intentions are good or not are largely irrelevant from the beginning. Every ounce of his behavior is a bit off, and John Goodman is an actor with the range to keep one guessing what type of person Howard is. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Michelle from the beginning as someone resourceful enough to survive. Parts of the ending of the movie have been criticized, and her actions in particular, but her ability to take care of herself in a desperate situation is established the moment she wakes up in Howard's bunker.
10 Cloverfield Lane, if one ignores the obvious fact that the title is little more than a desperate ploy to attract audiences who liked the other film, is actually the much better movie of the two. It isn't reliant upon a gimmick, but rather on the performances of the three leads. It also doesn't have much bloat, although the ending portion was a bit longer than I expected, and at that point it has almost become an entirely different film than what we have experienced for the last 90 or so minutes. Until then it is a tense film with characters one comes to know and like, which is quite heartbreaking once things begin to come to a climax.
10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
Time: 103 minutes
Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, John Gallagher Jr.
Director: Dan Trachtenberg