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Running Time:
1 hr. 45 min.

Rating: PG-13 Parents Strongly Cautioned.

Rating Explanation:
or thematic material including frightening sequences of threat with some violence, and brief language

Jimmy's Buzz Guide Review:
A smart, solidly crafted, seriously frightening thriller.

Additional Info:
John Goodman ... Howard
Mary Elizabeth Winstead ... Michelle
John Gallagher Jr. ... Emmett
Douglas M. Griffin ... Driver
Bradley Cooper ... Ben (voice)
Frank Mottek ... Radio Broadcaster

10 Cloverfield Lane
The film focuses on Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), whom we see in a largely wordless prologue leaving her fiancé Ben (Bradley Cooper) and driving determinedly out of the city. Along a deserted stretch of highway she’s in an accident while listening to Ben’s last voicemail, and wakes up in an underground bunker, chained to a cement wall.

Soon Howard (John Goodman) appears with a tray of food, telling her that he’s saved her from a disaster that’s struck the outside world—perhaps an invasion by one of the USA’s many earthly enemies, perhaps something extraterrestrial—that has contaminated the air and left the rest of the population dead or dying. The two of them—along with Emmet (John Gallagher, Jr.), a handyman who helped Howard build his safe, homey, well-stocked cellar—will remain secure as long as they stay where they are and work together to survive.

The big question is whether Howard is, in fact, sane or a dangerous nut job. Certainly his actions could support either view. At times he’s matter-of-fact, even friendly. But there’s a clear note of menace in his manner, and he’s volatile, turning on a dime to become enraged and threatening. There’s also something strange about his references to his daughter, whose clothes he offers to Michelle.

It wouldn’t be fair to reveal much more of the plot than that. But director Dan Trachtenberg demonstrates considerable skill in framing and delivering the narrative. Except for sequences at the beginning and end, the cinematography happily eschews the jittery, hand-held style of the original Cloverfield in favor of steady, straightforward camerawork that concentrates the intensity. Brear McCreary’s score contributes to the mood as well.

Of course, none of that would matter much without the dead-on performances. Except for a few instances, John Goodman sheds the geniality that has marked much of his past work, fashioning a convincing portrait of a fearsome bear of a man who nevertheless might just be right about what’s happening to the outside world. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, meanwhile, is no mere damsel in distress; in her hands Michelle is a formidable figure in her own right, clever, persistent and willing to go to extremes to do what she believes necessary. And John Gallagher, Jr. makes Emmet an engaging doofus, with a streak of nobility in his scruffy soul. This is a chamber piece: these three carry the picture comfortably, and one glimpses only one other person in the flesh during the course of the entire picture. This is an unsettling three-character suspense drama that will keep you guessing from start to finish.

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