After enduring a sudden car crash, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) finds herself trapped in an underground bunker owned by the elusive Howard Stambler (John Goodman), who informs her of a nuclear attack that has devastated the world above and left it a poisoned wasteland. Forced to accept her future within the bunker alongside Howard and other rescue Emett (John Gallagher, Jr.), Michelle adjusts to the situation around her, but slowly discovers that things were not as simple as initially thought.
By far the driving force of 10 Cloverfield Lane is the performance of John Goodman who, despite some occasionally conflicting character traits, provides a creepy yet compelling portrayal of a deluded, unnerving character, delivering the majority of the films jump scares (for lack a better term) and tension. Winstead and Gallagher also shine in their roles, demonstrating their vulnerable yet resilient nature as the film goes on, though Goodman is arguably the most impressive attribute by a long shot.
Most of the film takes place within this underground bunker, designed with extensive attention to detail, and it's surprising how compelling a story the filmmakers manage to tell in such a limited space with only a trio of characters. It's gripping, consistently enjoyable, and deftly blends emotion, tension and, in surprisingly fitting moments, a gentle dose of humour. Despite such a strong, consistent first and second act, this all sadly transits into something quite the opposite as we enter the films climax, which is abruptly bombastic and somewhat random, as well as vague and overlong. It not only seems out of place, but also a disappointing conclusion to an otherwise tense and thrilling script.
But while I'm not fond of it in context, as a visual sight and a general burst of excitement, it's still a reasonably entertaining finale, and sure to thrill fans of more eventful action sequences. But as it stands, the film mainly impresses when it remains an eerie, unsettling thriller, with a narrative that evolves in a thought provoking manner with a number of intriguing twists and turns. Everything is fleshed out beautifully despite the limitations of the setting, and so we have a near perfect thriller that's only bogged down by some occasional vague narrative hiccups and an unfit (if somewhat entertaining) climax.