“The film begins as a mystery and ends with even more mysteries”
10 Cloverfield Lane is a film that has you readily believing in its story until just after the climax. Overlapped with an endless string of mysteries, the film keeps you on the edge of your seat until you finally make it past the peak and out of the bunker.
The film centers around Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a young woman who abruptly leaves her home and her fiancé behind. While en route, a truck suddenly drives her off the road and she passes out as her car crashes and rolls. When she wakes up, Michelle finds herself locked in a musky, empty room, her leg shackled to the wall. Her captor is Howard Stambler (John Goodman): a burly, intimidating, and paranoid man who explains that an “attack” occurred and Michelle must stay with him in his bunker. Michelle and Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.), another survivor of the attack who fled to Howard’s bunker for safety, struggle to accept their new life in the bunker with Howard and then, eventually, they struggle to escape.
The film is a master at making the audience constantly waver about whether or not Howard is to be trusted or not. Is he telling the truth about the attack or is he just some disturbed old man who is lying just to have some company? Is the air really “contaminated” or would Michelle be just fine if she escaped? Does he really want to help keep Michelle and Emmett alive or does he have some other secret agenda? The film keeps you guessing about Howard the whole time, until you finally start piecing his cryptic clues together.
If the entire movie was filmed inside the bunker, it would have actually been a fairly engrossing, and low budget, movie. However, once Michelle finally does make it outside her prison, things take a disappointing turn. It so happens that Howard has been telling the truth all along and there have indeed been attacks (which is really the only mystery in the film that is actually confirmed). But these attacks have not been from other earthly enemies; they have been from extraterrestrial invaders, whose graphics need a few lessons on realism. The alien that is presented is some type of robotic, silver-scaled, transformative, animalistic thing that also has a set of fangs in its one protruding eye. The audience never gets an actual look at the creature because it is concealed mostly by darkness and shadows, however, we do get a view of its sidekick, which is a giant alien spaceship that also has a huge set of chompers. Is the spaceship some sort of alien-spaceship hybrid? Or is the alien just poking its colossal mouth through an opening in the spaceship? It’s too hard to tell, and thus, it is too unrealistic and fantastical to accept.
The film leaves you with many other unanswered questions as you leave the theatre and ponder the experience. So, is Howard just as creepy and disgusting as the film lets you conclude that he is? What actually took place during these attacks? Who are these aliens and what do they want?
And seriously, who the heck is Michelle? The film’s tactic of keeping Michelle mysterious works for a while … until it doesn’t. I left the theatre still wanting to know why she left her fiancé in such a hurry and where she was planning to go. I mean, it would have been nice to know more than just that she has chipped red nail polish and that she had an abusive father during her childhood, which she discusses for maybe a minute and a half. It’s hard to truly believe in a character that you know nothing about.
All in all, the film begins as a mystery and ends with even more mysteries. It is a frustrating series of thinking you may have found some solutions, and then finding out that the actual answers are buried just as deep as the bunker.