10 Cloverfield Lane Review: Alien vs human, who’s more monstrous?

The critically-acclaimed movie juxtaposes human psychology with the extraterrestrial — and yet you are not entirely sure which one is scarier or bleaker… or more unfathomable

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Sushmita Bose

Published: Thu 16 Jun 2022, 6:45 PM

This one is not a new film, but it’s probably been released on Netflix UAE quite recently (at least, I got the notification last weekend). 10 Cloverfield Lane has acquired some sort of a cult status — being the spiritual sequel to Cloverfield and pre-dating The Cloverfield Paradox — so it may be a really good idea to put it on your viewing list. Though all three installments of the Cloverfield franchise fall under the bracket of “science fiction horror/thriller”, none of them are connected to the other and can be watched as standalones; more fittingly, 10 Cloverfield Lane is much more about human psychology than science fiction… also, unlike the other two, it doesn’t have an ensemble cast, and uses very few characters and a limited setting, making it almost seem (most times) like a play.

Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is a woman with her own emotional baggage, who walks out of a relationship — almost on a whim — packs her bags, gets behind the wheel and starts driving. On the way, as her partner/husband keeps trying to call her, she gets distracted and crashes her car.

When she wakes up, she’s in a bunker that appears to have been arranged with a purpose. Her abductor is an ex-Navy officer called Howard (a superb John Goodman). He proceeds to tell her that he’s actually saved her life since the world outside has just witnessed an apocalypse; in all probability, it’s been an invasion of the aliens, and nobody can step out. Michelle, Howard tells her, will be fine since his bunker has been factory fitted to operate as a safe house, and they have provisions for at least two to three years.

He introduces the disbelieving Michelle to Emmett (John Gallagher Jr), the third inhabitant and a former employee of Howard, who has been given shelter there. Emmett tries to disabuse Michelle of her doubts, saying it’s true that there is something weird happening outside and that the air has been contaminated, and that Howard is not really a crazy conspiracy theorist. Michelle, however, believes that Howard is an unhinged dangerous man, who’s making up a fantastical hostage story and gaslighting Emmett.

I will not give away more of the plot — which, in any case, is fairly sketchy. What makes it work is the electricity of suspense that hovers around creepily, at times making you feel claustrophobic. There are top-notch performances by all the actors, and you realise how effective great acting, terms of engagement, and a taut setting can be. You don’t need the Star Wars or the Alien kind of grandiose SFX to make a science fiction thriller stand out.


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