10 Cloverfield Lane

After receiving a recommendation to see this movie, a friend and I made the pretty quick decision to Nike it. (Just do it.) I hadn’t seen Cloverfield, I knew I was getting outside my comfort zone by watching something potentially terrifying, and … actually, I didn’t know much more than that. It was all a big question mark, but every once in awhile, you have to walk into a movie theater not knowing anything.

I’m so glad I did. 10 Cloverfield Lane is thrilling and suspenseful — not actually horror, which I still am not into — and creative and thought-provoking. It really only has three main characters, and it leaves you as a fly on the wall the entire time, wondering what the hell you’d do in the situation.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead is Michelle, a woman who gets into a car accident and finds herself in a fallout shelter with Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) and Howard (John Goodman). In the span of an hour and a half, she deals with trust, doubt, survival, pain, fear, triumph and defeat. It’s an intense experience, and while I think the movie could have been drastically different with a different actor in the role, she played the “everywoman” in a way that I’m not sure any other actress could have pulled off. That first adjective I listed, trust, is something that actors seek readily out of their audiences, but she didn’t. She didn’t try to get anyone to like her throughout the course of the movie. Her character was focused on figuring out how she got there, why she was stuck in there and how she was going to get out, and pandering to a paying group of numbskulls was out of her jurisdiction. It felt refreshing, honestly, because in the process of not giving a shit about any of us, she made us like her more. Or she made me like her more, at least.

She also held back a lot, probably on purpose, because showing too many cards in a potential hostage situation is never a good idea — or so I’m told in the movies, anyway. As the movie progresses, we learn just how evil and twisted Howard is — he’s convinced there’s been a chemical outbreak and that everyone above ground is dead — but he’s also incredibly adept at playing mind games and finding just the right wording to keep his captives both incredibly close and at an (un)comfortable distance. You’ve probably never seen John Goodman like this before, and you’ll probably never want to again. He’s a two-face, at once fatherly and caring while also holding Michelle and Emmett’s life in his hands. My movie-going friend made an astute observation about him after we left the theater, which was that evil and right are not mutually exclusive in his case. Not that they are all the time, but he’s a wonderful example of complex, subtle writing. A bad character who draws you in for a reason you’re not even sure about.

Towards the end, the movie adopted some supernatural elements, which I wasn’t expecting. I’ve never been huge into the sci-fi genre, yet after about 10 seconds, I totally bought it. The movie itself already feels like it’s in a supernatural world, given the supposed biohazard outside and the confined nature of the fallout shelter. And besides, Michelle ascends to this level of knowledge at that point that feels almost godlike. She surprises herself with her abilities, her reflexes, her inner power, and it would make sense that supernatural forces were at work alongside her.

Hey, they drew me into the movie theater, anyway. Hope they have the same effect on you, because this one is worth the thrill.