The average Rotten Tomato–Metacritic rating for 10 Cloverfield Lane (Paramount, 3.11) is 83%. That’s far too generous for a film that spends 85% or 90% of its length inside an underground quonset hut and never really turns you on or makes you laugh or scream or anything. I caught it last night at the AMC Century 14, and the second that the end credits began I all but leapt out of my seat and was speed-marching out of the plex like R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket.
It’s basically a drama of confinement — a three-character piece about a pair of late20somethings (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, The Newsroom‘s John Gallagher, Jr.) being held captive in a bunker by a fat, bearded, paranoid survivalist (John Goodman). Goodman is definitely an oddball with a temper but not a fiend — he just insists that something awful has happened up above (contaminated air, nuclear holocaust, alien invasion) and that they’re both very, very lucky he’s decided to save them.
On the other hand the place is on maximum security lockdown and so this is a little bit like Room, only bigger and homier with a nightly dinner hour and two or three classic-rock interludes (clap if you hate “I Think We’re Alone Now”).
Right away Winstead is suspicious about the ground-level threat story plus she smells some kind of malevolence residing deep within Goodman’s girth, and so most of the film is about (a) her extremely actorish responses to Goodman’s strangeness and possible bullshit (I was silently screaming “will you stop fucking ‘acting’ and just be in the situation and play it real and low-down?”) and (b) constantly plotting or attempting escape.
Okay, eight or nine people laughed a couple of times last night but I immediately turned around and gave them the stink-eye for doing so.
I despised Gallagher’s character, a rural, bearded, under-educated moron who wipes his mouth with his hand while eating. They’re called napkins, asshole. Ever seen one?
Trust me, you’re going to get very sick of Goodman’s bunker after about 45 minutes or so, and doubly if not triply sick of Winstead’s facial expressions (fear, alarm, anxiety, desperation, panic…wash, rinse, repeat) along with her loud panting and occasional moaning.
Boiled down, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a social allegory piece about differing responses to danger — hide inside and never come out (i.e., the conservative or cowardly approach) or go out and engage and mingle with like-minded souls and fight it out as best you can. That’s what the film is essentially about. But I’m telling you it’s really, really not worth 105 minutes of your time.