It starts conventionally: with a crash. Our heroine, Michelle, is driven off the road by a truck and careens into a nearby ditch. She twists and turns and flips – then, for the next two hours, 10 Cloverfield Lane takes us through its own wild ride.
Essentially, what Dan Trachtenberg (a new face to the directing scene) has done is presented a compelling genre movie in a blender. Thriller and sci-fi. Sci-fi and mystery. Mystery and horror. They combine and intertwine and coexist so fluently, it's often difficult to tell what kind of movie you're seeing. But one thing's for certain: It's damn good stuff.
Common tropes of the aforementioned genre movies all show up, too: the haunted house, the ambivalent threat, the devil in the room. We are presented with one trope, then the other, all the while being asked the question: What are we afraid of? The unknown? The end?
If you haven't seen The Witch yet, I encourage you to—because it presents a spellbinding answer to the question of what its characters are afraid of. But that is a purebred horror flick. 10 Cloverfield Lane not only presents an answer with a lot of fortitude, but it gives the characters a dynamic relationship with fear and lets them play in it.
Then there's the elephant in the room with regard to the project's existence: Is 10 Cloverfield Lane a sequel to Cloverfield? I'll give a whispered “Yes,” but it's not in the way you're expecting, and not in a way that can be published here. How about this: 10 Cloverfield Lane is too ambitious, too smart, and too well-made to be a straight knockoff of its “predecessor.” It's worth your time.