If I were to sum up the essence of 10 Cloverfield Lane, I’d say “intriguingly unique”.
The basic plot isn’t unique — woman goes off road, awakes imprisoned in a house, doesn’t know who to trust — but this one not only kept me guessing but most of my guesses were wrong.
The heroine is a bit of a “run away from problems” girl, but when she has an accident and wakes up chained to a wall in a house, running away is not an option. When she is told by the strange owner Howard (played in nicely menacing fashion by John Goodman) that he’s saved her because there has been some disaster outside and the air isn’t breathable, she is understandably suspicious. The other strange occupant of the house, who claims he built the bomb shelter they’re in and forced his way in, adds further confusion, but he does support Howard’s story.
While its genre is partially horror and has its share of frights and violence, I don’t consider it truly horrific (unlike Stephen King’s Misery, which has a similar basic plot). I don’t think you’ll be opening your eyes in the middle of the night after watching it, but it’s not something you’ll want to watch with the kids.
Throughout the movie you are left wondering what’s really going on. Howard is a conspiracy nut and is alternately reasonable and threatening, so you don’t know what of what he says to believe. Some evidence points to his telling the truth. But other evidence points to him being a mad killer. I won’t tell you what happens as I think this is a movie worth watching. And I will merely quote what the heroine says when she discovers the truth: “You’ve got to be kidding me.”