Now here’s the thing. You might be expecting this movie to be a sequel to Cloverfield. And it kiiiiiiind of is but you don’t need to see Cloverfield to understand this movie. It’s almost unrelated yet they exist in the same universe. So that’s a little confusing because people might be expecting some big alien action movie and a true sequel to Cloverfield and this movie definitely isn’t that.
In the opening scene, we see Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) get in a car accident. She wakes up in a cellar, chained to the wall. It turns out that her accident coincided with some sort of apocalypse, so she was brought down into this bunker by Howard (John Goodman), saving her life. Howard has also convinced another man to join them in the bunker, a man named Emmett (John Gallagher Jr). These are really the only three people in the movie and 95% of the movie takes place in this bunker, as Michelle tries to figure out if 1.) Howard is right and some sort of attack did happen and he actually saved her or 2.) Howard is a psychopath and is making all of this up.
If you go in and absolutely ignore the Cloverfield title, you should have a really good time here. The title almost does a disservice to the movie because it might create false assumptions about this movie and it also might spoil some of the big reveals, if you know what happened in Cloverfield. Go in and enjoy this movie independently of everything else.
What you’ll end up with is a fantastic thriller, dark and suspenseful and tense. First-time director Dan Trachtenberg (at least, his first-time big studio picture) absolutely nails it here and he’ll for sure be a name to look out for. The setting is perfect, this small bunker making you feel claustrophobic and scared of what’ll happen next. There’s a few air duct scenes that made me feel almost short of breath because of how captivating they were shot.
This movie succeeds though because of its performances. Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs the World) delivers the best performance of her career. You might think she plays the damsel in distress character but she is actually really strong and resourceful and continually surprises us. She’s making plans that we don’t even understand yet. She’s a great character and really fun to watch her navigate this problem.
However, the absolute star of the show is John Goodman. This guy… Wow. He manages to give us a complicated character that you can never pinpoint what he’s thinking. At moments, you feel empathetic and sorry for his character, but then you’ll suddenly fear what he’ll do next. He’s an absolute powerhouse here and it’s great to see him back; it feels like it’s been awhile since he’s been in a major motion picture.
What doesn’t work?
As I mentioned in the opening summary, some folks will be upset that this movie isn’t really a sequel to Cloverfield. This isn’t an action-packed sci-fi adventure. It’s a slow and intense and absolutely thrilling character drama.
Having said that, there are connections to Cloverfield. The ending of this film might confuse and even almost frustrate the viewer. I don’t want to spoil much but this is a movie that, after seeing it, you’ll want to immediately debrief with someone who’s seen it. The ending will be divisive for sure.
Don’t expect this to be a sequel to Cloverfield, though knowing that can inform some of what’s happening. On its own, this is an intense character drama that features some absolutely captivating performances, most notably John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. This movie will have you on the edge of your seat the whole time and it’s an absolute thrill. Just keep your expectations in check and enjoy the ride.