Confinement is so hot right now.
Taken in tandem with this autumn’s stuck-in-a-shed opus, Room, 10 Cloverfield Lane cements the last 6 months as perhaps the greatest era of media involving the twin-themes of claustrophobia and distasteful, dangerous men since R. Kelly dropped the opening chapters of the interminable “Trapped In The Closet” in 2005.
10 Cloverfield Lane spends the majority of its run-time making our skin crawl within the gloomy confines of a doomsday prepper’s fallout shelter (an admittedly roomier setting than Room‘s room). John Goodman’s Howard plays host to two ‘guests’, making a big fat deal about how his generosity has prevented them from perishing in whatever calamity he claims is unfolding out in the open air. We’re left with 100 minutes of tough-as-nails tension as the house guests struggle to discern whether or not they’d be safer taking their chances on the other side of the wall.
Goodman is operating at a fever pitch of unpredictable threat here, bringing to mind his performance in the Cohen Bros’ gem Barton Fink, but it’s Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s movie. As Michelle, she exudes a palpable vulnerability and MacGyver-scale resourcefulness, becoming almost impossible not to root for. Even in the (very few) moments when the film decides to play it a little silly, Winstead sells it handily.
10 Cloverfield Lane succeeds as a creep-fest that uses its economy of scale to every advantage. The terrific performances are bolstered by a solid look and some very interesting & effective sound design. It’s a Bad Robot joint, so it inevitably gets J.J. Abrams’d (the spoiler is in the title, for fuck’s sake), but by that point I had been so thoroughly charmed, I’m not sure what they could have done to irreparably mess it up.
Maybe an R. Kelly song.
Maybe if the kid from Room had’ve shown up and started talking to the shower curtain or something. Even then, though – Fun time at the movies!