Looking Back at 2010s Films: 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

1 Oct


By Tanner Smith

Continuing my series of Looking Back at 2010s Films, there are so many fan theories about how “Cloverfield” and “10 Cloverfield Lane” (and “The Cloverfield Paradox”) connect together, and I’m not going to try to give my own take. I’m just going to talk about “10 Cloverfield Lane” as its own movie.

The story is told from the perspective of Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead in her best performance), who suddenly awakens from a car crash to a farmhouse basement. She was brought there by a mysterious hulking man, Howard (John Goodman, always a delight), who tells her that above ground is a war zone–according to him, an “attack” of some kind seems to have contaminated the air, and the basement is the safest place to be. Michelle isn’t sure what to make of it, since Howard seems potentially dangerous. But when she notices some strange things that sort of back up his statement, she and her companion, Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), have no choice but to ride it out. But soon enough, the question of whether it’s safer in here or out there comes into play…

“10 Cloverfield Lane” is a masterfully done thriller that gets better each time I watch it. The first time I saw it, I didn’t know what to make of it after its ending, which felt like a different movie. But the more I thought about it, and the more pieces I put together after watching it repeatedly, the more sense the ending made. It made the film even more intriguing both in hindsight and in revisit.

I love movies like that–movies that you have to watch more than once in order to fully understand it. If you need to watch a movie only once, what’s so special about it? (I mean…unless it’s something as incredibly disturbing albeit well-made, like “The Girl Next Door” or “We Need to Talk About Kevin.”)

The ending does make sense. All the sounds the characters hear, many of the things that are said or implied–it all adds up. And we don’t know everything–because most of the movie is set in this closed-off basement area, our knowledge of what’s really happening upstairs is as limited as it gets. It’s only when we get a major clue at the end, which makes for a neat climax, that we’re able to piece together the puzzle.

But something else I really like about “10 Cloverfield Lane” is the development from our lead character Michelle. When we first meet her, she’s running away from her husband after they allegedly had some kind of domestic dispute (though, when her husband calls as she drives away, he simply describes it as a little fight). And when she’s in the basement, we see her use every resource to attempt to escape, however and whenever she can. That’s the only thing she knows how to do, having grown up from an abusive household and regrets not doing anything about what she saw both then and now. You can tell she’s not a fighter, but she will do anything and everything to run away from an uncomfortable situation. The first time I saw the movie, I was too busy thinking about how SMART this horror-movie protagonist is before I could pick up on that, but at least I’m giving her credit for something in the first place. (SPOILER ALERT!!!) Then, she fights her way out of the basement to take her chances outside…where it turns out Howard was right all along about the attack, as she encounters some kind of alien ship and, using her wits, skill, resources, and newfound courage, manages to blow the thing up. So, now she’s a fighter. But will she continue to run? She’s free to go wherever she wants. But instead, after hearing a distress call on a radio station coming from the other direction, she decides she’s going to help people instead of run from them.

Really good stuff here.

One Response to “Looking Back at 2010s Films: 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)”


  1. Prepping for My Top 20 Films of the 2010s | Smith's Verdict - November 26, 2019

    […] “It Follows,” “The Invitation,” “Ouija: Origin of Evil,” “10 Cloverfield Lane,” “Super Dark […]

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