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10 Cloverfield Lane

Winstead and Goodman Michele K. Short/Paramount Pictures

<em>10 Cloverfield Lane</em>
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For most of 10 Cloverfield Lane, one wonders whether it is science fiction, dystopian, or merely a psychological thriller. The film (rated PG-13 for thematic material including frightening sequences and brief language) is about three people stuck underground during what may be the end of civilization. The drama is human, and the acting is very good. Pick the wrong three people and boredom could have resulted; instead the casting is the life of the movie.

John Goodman is frightening, lovable, funny, and brilliant all in the first 10 minutes he is on screen. His character is impossible to pin down for most of the runtime, and that makes the movie work. If your character starts by chaining a woman to the wall of your underground bunker, an actor must work hard to produce sympathy; but Goodman does it.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead is MacGyver-like in her ability to solve problems with brains and duct tape. She is Goodman’s equal in dramatic power, and so the film never grinds to a halt, even when the excitement lags in the second act.

John Gallagher Jr. is the comic sidekick whose main role appears to be exposition. If his character is lovable and heroic, the actor is overwhelmed by the power of Goodman and Winstead. He doesn’t start the dramatic fire but doesn’t get burned by it either. He is solid.

The made-for-television feel of the sets and special effects is a letdown, and the score is forgettable. The plot is absurd, and if you think about it, at all, you might laugh. But Goodman and Winstead transcend it all, and movie fun happens.

But don’t see it in IMAX. Cloverfield is part of the rise of claustrophobic movies screened on IMAX, giving us very big images of very small spaces. Goodman and Winstead are in a stage play, but the movie is blown up to a spectacle.

John Mark Reynolds John Mark is a former WORLD contributor.


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