10 Cloverfield Lane is not a sequel to J.J. Abrams' 2008 movie about an American Kaiju (read giant monster) attacking New York City. In fact, outside of the title and a few little JJ verse references (there is a gas station named Kelvin, a name scattered throughout his oeuvre), this film has little in common with Cloverfield. Of course the title kind of spoils what it does have in common, since not knowing what was going on outside of the bunker might’ve made things a bit more interesting.
10 Cloverfield Lane is about Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a woman on the run from her boyfriend until an auto accident sidelines her into an underground shelter belonging to Howard (John Goodman). Howard explains that he found her in her overturned vehicle and brought her to his shelter to save her life, since there was some kind of unspecified attack (chemical? nuclear? biological?) that had rendered the world above uninhabitable. Unsure of Howard’s credibility, Michelle spends most of the movie working on one escape plan or another, and ultimately escapes from the bunker to discover the truth, a truth in the title that doesn’t leave much room for suspense.
The big problem with 10 Cloverfield Lane is that it doesn’t know what kind of movie it wants to be, a tense psychological thriller about a young woman trapped in a bunker with an ambiguously threatening John Goodman, or a post apocalyptic monster movie. It shines at both in moments, based largely on the performances of Goodman, Winstead and John Gallagher, Jr. (as third wheel survivor Emmet), but you never really get over the feeling that you are watching two different movies. B-