I find myself somewhat at a loss, befuddled by conflicting tenets of what I should and should not do. On the one hand, it is my job, as a film critic, to spend 800-1000 words discussing the movie which I was privileged to see early in order to either persuade or prevent you from attending a show. On the other, as a lover of film, it is my firm belief that, in regards to 10 Cloverfield Lane, you, my audience, are better served knowing as little as possible beforehand. It’s with this in mind that I implore that you cease reading by the end of the paragraph, taking away the knowledge that I 1. Loved the movie and 2. Think you should see it.
Are you still with me? It’s weird, as a writer, to say this but God I hope not. If you are, I’ll do my best to say little. The air of mystery surrounding 10 Cloverfield Lane is part of the entire charm, and point, of the film. It was made in near secrecy, with few knowing it was even in production until the trailer dropped nonchalantly in the middle of one night just a couple of months ago. The trailer’s release sparked a slew of questions, among them, “What the fuck?” and “Is this a sequel to Cloverfield?” and “No really, what?!”
This entire concept flew in the face of modern movie marketing strategies, which rely on inundation, excess, and spoilers to entice the public into seeing their film. The whole strategy behind 10 Cloverfield Lane’s marketing has been secrecy, cryptic comments, shrugged shoulders, and half answers. It’s been, frankly, baffling.
That is until I saw the movie. There was something undeniably exciting and provocative about seeing a major motion picture without knowing too much about what I was getting into. The trailers did little to answer the questions people had about the film, and what you little you do need to know can be found there. Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) finds herself locked in a bunker with Howard (John Goodman) and Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) and told that she’s been in an accident and that the world as she knew it has ended (maybe).
The lack of insight into what the movie would be about served only to help the film develop its larger themes, which I won’t discuss here aside from saying they’re developed well. The film relies on a sense of claustrophobia, which in turn relies on the audience not knowing what, if anything, is actually going on. There are intricate layers of mystery and intrigue that propel the film forward, all of which serve to keep you guessing until the bitter end. There are moments where you think you know what’s going on, but then the movie veers off in other directions, upending all that you’ve learned about the narrative to that point.
With that in mind, the marketing for 10 Cloverfield Lane is one of the more brilliant campaigns in recent memory. The “What?” that you asked yourself upon viewing the trailer is the only impetus you need to see the film, and the movie continues to dangle that carrot throughout its runtime. The result is a thriller of near Hitchcockian intensity, which builds as we learn more about our characters before pulling back to change the course.
This process repeats itself as the film continues, adding tension almost by the minute as Michelle, and by extension the audience, figures out what (again, if anything) is actually going on. In this regard, 10 Cloverfield Lane is one of the more suspenseful thrillers released in recent memory. It’s not a movie for everyone, and there are going to be a lot of people who feel let down by the twists the movie makes along the way.
Unfortunately, there’s not really any way for me to tell you if you’re one of those people without ruining it for those who are going to love it, of which I expect there will be plenty. For now, the best I can tell you is that if you had any interest in seeing it based on the initial preview, then it’s definitely worth the price of a ticket and the two hours of your time. Even if you end up hating it in the end—and you might—the ride itself is one worth taking. But go in blind, and with zero expectations. Let yourself become absorbed by the atmosphere and the mystery, and you might just find yourself having the most fun of the season.
10 Cloverfield Lane is now playing in theaters everywhere.