By Jonathon Dornbush
March 11, 2016 at 09:06 PM EST
Michele K. Short

The Clover-verse expands with 10 Cloverfield Lane, the existence of which was only revealed in January, re-opening the Bad Robot mystery box and sending fans of the 2008 found-footage film into a tizzy about what this “blood relative” may hold.

Drenched in mystery, 10 Cloverfield Lane, the feature film directorial debut of Dan Trachtenberg (who helmed the great Portal short film Portal: No Escape, follows Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a woman who, after being part of a car crash, wakes up in the bunker of Howard (John Goodman). Scared and confused, Michelle is told Howard saved her life, bringing her into his safe house while the world outside has become uninhabitable.

The two are alone save for a third occupant Emmet (John Gallagher, Jr.), but the pressure cooker situation makes Michelle question whether she’s being told the truth, and whether any danger really awaits her on the surface.

And… that’s about all the filmmakers have revealed about 10 Cloverfield Lane, with its shortened promotion cycle meant to maintain questions about what’s really happening to Michelle — and just why it bears the Cloverfield name — until viewers can experience them in theaters. Like its predecessor, intrepid fans have discovered an alternate reality game, offering details that, while not revealing the scope of the film, do offer more insight to its characters and world (2008’s Cloverfield had a similar ARG attached to it, including several websites, characters not even present in the film, and more that expanded on the notion of the film’s kaiju).

For those who want to know nothing else before watching the film turn back now. Otherwise, consider this a strong Spoiler Warning as we investigate one other question looming over 10 Cloverfield Lane — is it any good?

In his B review of the film, EW’s Chris Nashawaty said “For a rookie director, Trachtenberg appears to be a real craftsman, even if what he’s crafting doesn’t add up to as much as you hope it will. Like Shyamalan’s Signs, it’s 90 minutes of anticipation – ominous trap-setting that leads to a big pay-off that is well staged but also a little anticlimactic and hokey.”

For more from Nashawaty’s review, along with a host of other critics’ takes from around the country, read below.

Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly)

“For the record, everything I’ve just described takes place in the first-third of the movie. But I think it would be churlish to say any more, not because the studio would prefer it that way, but because the small handful of thrills in 10 Cloverfield Lane are of the jump-scare variety. They work best when you don’t see them coming. The movie doesn’t have anything deeper on its mind than shouting “Boo!” But sometimes a well-timed “Boo!” can be enough. After all, it’s why they still make jack in the boxes. “

Justin Lowe (The Hollywood Reporter)

“Both narratively and stylistically, Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane remain at a significant remove from one another. Making an impactful feature debut, Trachtenberg eschews the well-worn found-footage technique in favor of a suspenseful style that’s more consistent with the tense character dynamics of the first two-thirds of the movie, perceptibly heightened by the claustrophobic underground setting. The final third shifts into high-adrenaline action mode with some thrilling set pieces as Michelle faces unexpected new threats, making the paradoxical conclusion satisfying on multiple levels as it delivers on the thriller setup while introducing surprising new developments”

Jeanette Catsoulis (The New York TImes)

“Employing a playlike setup and an unflinching camera (Jeff Cutter’s cinematography is miraculously lucid), the filmmakers lean heavily on Mr. Goodman’s disconcerting performance and Ms. Winstead’s spunky resolve. John Gallagher Jr. works wonders with his underwritten role as the bunker’s third resident, and pops of 1960s tunes add a creepy nostalgia.”

Michael O’Sullivan (The Washington Post)

Like Cloverfield, 10 Cloverfield Lane raises almost as many questions as it answers. Where are these monsters from, and what do they want? Both films look at the world in a form of tunnel vision: Cloverfield, through the lens of a camcorder, and 10 Cloverfield Lane through the smudged glass window of an underground bunker. Questions about what is going on in the broader world, which linger long after the closing credits, are less interesting, at least in this latest film, than the ones that have to do with the way we treat one another.”

A.A. Dowd (The A.V. Club)

“Setting aside a few stylistic flairs — the opening credits arrive during the auto accident, creating alarming shock cuts to darkness and silence every few seconds — Trachtenberg mostly just trusts his capable cast and the sturdy three-hander cooked up for them. (He also leans heavily on Walking Dead composer Bear McCreary, whose urgent suspense score makes this deliberately small movie feel a little bigger, giving it an extra charge of Spielbergian grandeur.”

Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle)

“To this point in her career, Mary Elizabeth Winstead has been bobbing into and out of the radar, always distinctive, always better than the material, and always on the verge of becoming famous. (There was some Oscar buzz a few years back for her portrayal of an alcoholic in Smashed.) Perhaps she will break through with 10 Cloverfield Lane. Much of what she does in the film is wordless — clocking Howard’s every utterance, gauging his lunacy, showing flickers of disappointment when she realizes Emmett is too dim to be much help — and she’s terrific.”

Justin Chang (Variety)

“Gallagher, so good opposite Brie Larson in Short Term 12, at once varies and complicates the dynamic between the two leads, even if Emmett’s role is necessarily the least developed of the three. Still, the psychological grounding that Trachtenberg achieves here provide more-than-sufficient ballast for the harrowing final moments, which send the movie in an appreciably wilder, more unhinged direction; rarely has ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire’ felt more apt as a description.”

Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune)

“So it’s a little bit of Room, a little bit of War of the Worlds, and producer J.J. Abrams’ involvement ensures some dashes of unexpected humor (whether you believe the levity in this context or not) along with director Dan Trachtenberg’s facility for occasional, brutally effective bursts of violence. Goodman’s very good, taking care of job one, which is to keep us guessing Howard’s intentions. And Winstead is even better, within the parameters of this genre mashup.”

Brian Truitt (USA Today)

“The middle of the movie borders on Lifetime-level drama theatrics, though Trachtenberg nails enough scenes to keep an appropriate tautness as the film moves into its revelatory third act, the definite highlight of Lane. It’s not fair to ruin the payoff here, but it’s exceedingly well-played, consistent with the rest of the film and offers some surprise.”

Mark Olsen (Los Angeles Times)

“The film is at its best when it settles into being an uneasy chamber drama, as unfolding events confirm one interpretation of what is really happening until an equally believable counter-fact comes along. And it is at its worst when it feels compelled to start answering its own questions and forced to satisfy the imperatives of conforming to a new franchise.”

Scott Tobias (NPR)

“All this may sound like the set-up to an M. Night Shyamalan twist, and certainly 10 Cloverfield Lane does have the obligation to pay off its Twilight Zone premise. But Trachtenberg and his screenwriters, Josh Campbell and Matthew Stuecken, take advantage of the shelter’s tight quarters, which contribute to the expected pressure-cooker atmosphere of suspicion and hostility but also open up the punch-drunk comedy of people going mad with boredom. Howard may be a controlling monster, but he’s got a kick-ass jukebox and he’s always up for board games or late-night viewings of Pretty In Pink on VHS. “


Overall Metacritic rating: 76

Rotten Tomatoes percent: 90 percent

Rated: PG-13

Length: 105 minutes

Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, John Gallagher Jr.

Directed by Dan Trachtenberg

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 113 minutes
  • Dan Trachtenberg
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