Michelle drives away from home, gets into a car accident and then wakes up in an underground bunker. At first she thinks that she is kidnapped but the bunker’s owner Howard tells her that while she was out, the outside world experienced an attack and the air outside is radioactive. So, they all have to stay inside. Michelle starts to question whether Howard is telling the truth about this attack. Also, he seems a bit dangerous.
The movie that has basically nothing in common with its predecessor Cloverfield (2008), but we all forgive this marketing stunt because it is an excellent movie. Had it been crap, everyone would have lost their minds over the naming strategy. But now, we are all happy to have been lured to the cinemas for a film that otherwise would have disappeared, probably.
Damn this is one tense movie. I was on the edge of my seat for the whole time. This is mostly due to John Goodman who plays this character Howard, and Goodman is walking a very fine line between putting down a realistic character and a threatening caricature. He dominates every scene. He is very believable as a guy who is rather self-absorbed and who is not aware of how uncomfortable he makes the people around him. He is needy and insecure and has mood swings, but you can’t get away from him because you’re all locked inside this bunker. And that makes him irritating, intrusive and dominating.
For Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) it is not just the question of whether he is telling the truth about the dire situation outside. It is also about: even if the outside world is screwed by whatever happened, can I still stay inside this bunker with this guy? It is a really good premise and the movie keeps you guessing throughout. At first you distrust the guy, then he might seem like an honest person, and then doubt creeps in again. From the start, the movie has a hundred tricks up its sleeve.
What is not all that realistic is some of Howard’s treatment of Michelle. I mean, she wakes up chained to the wall and locked inside a room, and her assessment of being trapped would be pretty accurate. Who with good intentions would do that? And I do believe that Howard had good intentions even though there was this emotional undercurrent of him wanting and needing Michelle with him in there in the bunker and being controlling towards her.
With a small cast of only three real characters in a room, the story is very involving. All three actors deliver very good performances. The third guy is Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), an easygoing guy who also seems too ready to let Howard play the boss. He is an uncertain ally for Michelle, but his presence also normalizes the situation just a little bit to a semblance of normal life, so that we all let our guard down.
I wondered: How is a movie like this going to end? And the writers seemed to have wrestled with the same problem, because the final 10 minutes are really different in tone. It changes from a tense thriller to an action spectacle. I would have preferred some more mystery instead of exposition. For the whole movie you keep wondering what is going on up in the world and when the truth is revealed, it feels a bit deflating.
All in all, this is one of the best straight-up psychological thrillers in years. Highly recommended for thrilling time.