To answer your first question, this film has little in common with Cloverfield, despite the involvement of producer J.J. Abrams and others connected with that inventive and genuinely frightening film. For one thing, this is not a “found footage” movie, but a thriller with horror and science-fiction elements. But it does have its fair share of scary moments and an eminently workable premise.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead has just broken up with her boyfriend and is driving away into the countryside when she’s involved in a catastrophic car crash. When she awakens, she’s in a cinder-block bunker with an IV in her arm. The man who rescued her, John Goodman, turns out to be her captor. He is a survivalist who has prepared this underground shelter for the doomsday he has always foreseen and now, he says, it has arrived. Winstead isn’t the only one imprisoned there: a young man who helped build the bunker (John Gallagher, Jr.) is also on hand.
Naturally, Winstead wants to escape, but what if Goodman is telling the truth and there has been an attack that has poisoned the air outside?
In his debut feature, director Dan Trachtenberg plays all his cards right, building tension through a series of thriller tropes, some of them bordering on cliché but still pretty effective. His strongest asset is John Goodman, an actor who brings nuance and humor to what could be a stock character. This is no ordinary villain or goon; you never know what to expect from him, and as always he’s a pleasure to watch. Winstead and Gallagher bring conviction and credibility to their roles, as well.
But 10 Cloverfield Lane becomes repetitive at a certain point, even though it still has some surprises in store. I found myself losing interest, so the finale (which is reminiscent of Cloverfield) doesn’t have the impact it should. As a piece of popcorn entertainment it’s not bad, but it spends too much time on much-too-familiar ground.