WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD
To be clear — in case you somehow accidentally stumbled into this article with the words “last 10 minutes” in the headline — I am about to delve into the ending of new mystery-driven thriller 10 Cloverfield Lane. Don’t read on if you have yet to see the film and hope to see it spoiler-free!
Okay, you’ve scrolled right on past a picture of the lovely Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Safe to assume you actually want to read about the concluding minutes of 10 Cloverfield Lane.
I lay out the spoiler warnings so thoroughly here because this is a film that’s best enjoyed with the mystery box tightly closed, no leaks before opening. If you go into 10 Cloverfield Lane like that, it’ll keep you guessing and keep you on edge, just like a good thriller should.
You keep wondering and guessing, just as Winstead’s Michelle does, whether there really is something dangerous outside the bunker. And if there is, who (or what) is it? Is it the Ruskies?? Or the Martians?? Howard says it could be either, but Howard’s crazy, right?
When the movie’s almost over, we learn that something really is going on outside, above ground. Aliens* (yes, of the extraterrestrial variety) have invaded Earth and likely killed a large part of our planet’s population, and we spend the final minutes of the film with Michelle, finally out of the bunker, trying to process what she’s seeing — a spacecraft and slimy, many-toothed aliens — and fighting back against these creatures that are attempting to attack and abduct her.
*At least, it looks like aliens. I’m sure there will be fan theories aplenty speculating that what we saw there was not as it seemed.
I had gone into the movie knowing the film’s tagline: “Monsters come in many forms.” Trying not to get my hopes up that we’d see some cool aliens or monsters, and knowing that this isn’t a direct sequel to J.J. Abrams’ 2008 giant monster movie Cloverfield, I just assumed that the only monsters we’d see in this film would be monstrous humans, and I thought that tagline was Bad Robot’s way of covering their asses when fans inevitably complained that we didn’t get any “real” monsters.
Well, I was wrong about that.
Though the movie had me guessing what was really going on outside and how Howard might have pulled off this whole ruse and whether or not to trust Emmett, I never quite trusted Howard, even after Michelle does (briefly). I always assumed he was the monster here. And we soon see that, indeed, he is a monster.
But it turns out you’re not safe inside or outside the bunker — there be monsters both below and above ground. The terror that comes with that realization is part of what makes this a great thriller.
That ending is already proving to be divisive with folks who saw Thursday and earlier screenings. One member of the press said the movie “self-destructed” and “ran right off the rails” in those final minutes. Some people are saying tacking on the sci-fi ending was a money-grab, a way to get the Cloverfield title. But I was so down with this reveal.
Depending on your expectations of the movie, the alien reveal was a surprise, just like it’s a shock for Michelle. But it wasn’t out of nowhere — and that’s why it worked. This isn’t a Kingdom of the Crystal Skull situation. Howard had talked about how this might be an alien invasion in waves. And then the movie went there. It went so far as to make the crazy guy right.
And I suppose as someone who’s a genre fan and who knows she’s watching a J.J. Abrams movie, maybe I’m just predisposed to accepting that there are aliens in your movie.
You may be wondering — did the movie’s ending change after it became a Cloverfield movie? It did.
Some background: This film began as a spec script called The Cellar by Josh Campbell & Matt Struecken. Then Abrams’ company Bad Robot bought the script. And sometime after Bad Robot entered the picture, the ending changed, and The Cellar became 10 Cloverfield Lane, now part of what Abrams is saying will be “something of an anthology” series.
In the spec script for The Cellar (thanks, Drew McWeeny, for sending that script my way), there are no spaceships, no aliens. Michelle escapes the bunker wearing a hazmat suit (not a gas mask she made herself, so there’s improvement #1 — I love how MacGyver she was in the movie). She drives away in Howard’s truck, toward Chicago, where her family is (or was), still not sure whether any of Howard’s hogwash about Russians attacking is true. Then she crests a hill, and we see a look of horror on her face. Then we see Chicago — or what was Chicago. The city’s been reduced to rubble. And that’s where the film ends — no aliens onscreen, no answers about who destroyed Chicago.
The changes to the story are an improvement, in my book. We get an action-packed conclusion, where we get to watch Winstead’s scrappy character still fighting for her life. We get aliens, we get a twist. And we get the dread that comes with learning nowhere is safe. And we get Michelle making the decision to turn left toward Houston, to keep fighting back.
What did you think of the direction 10 Cloverfield Lane went with its final minutes? Tell us in the comments, and for more HitFix reactions to 10 Cloverfield Lane, read Drew McWeeny’s review and watch the video discussion with Drew, Roth Cornet, and Chris Eggertsen.