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"10 Cloverfield Lane" is one of the best things I've ever seen

I loved 10 Cloverfield Lane.  See virtually any review on Rotten Tomatoes for a good recap of why - it's an all-around great movie.

So great that it makes me seethe with jealousy, because that's how I process good things.  I'm kind of a jerk like that.

There's a lot of stuff going on in the movie that you could deconstruct, but the part that stood out to me the most is its critique of doomsday prepping.  This is probably because I'm currently writing a novel about doomsday preppers and I'm fascinated by other people's take on the movement.

See, I'm pretty critical of the whole concept in the first place. I wrote a much more detailed post about this awhile back, but the short version is that prepping is a naive exercise in vanity.  To think that you can apply any semblance of control over your fate in the event of a worldwide apocalyptic event is laughable, but to think you're so special that you've thought of everything to sustain yourself for years afterward is arrogant beyond belief.  Survival isn't an investment, it's a reflex.

I'm trying to explore that as much as I can in my book, but I'm the kind of guy who always thinks the grass on the other side is greener.  So when I see a movie like 10 Cloverfield Lane that plays with similar ideas and themes and does them so well, I get insanely petty.  How dare you do something better than I think I'm doing it?

The spoiler-free description of the movie is that John Goodman plays a prepper who has brought Mary Elizabeth Winstead into his underground bunker following a car accident.  He's a creepy dude who gives off bad vibes, so Winstead tries to leave; however, Goodman insists that they have to stay locked inside because of some nebulous threat above (possibly nuclear fallout or maybe flesh-eating gas).

Goodman's character himself is a borderline caricature, but he does a good job summing up all the worst aspects of prepping.  He's cruel, grim, and selfish, refusing to offer aid to anybody else because he only cares about his own interests, which extend menacingly to Winstead.  He insists on maintaining strict and unrealistic control of all aspects of his and Winstead's lives.  He's out of touch, paranoid, and operating on only tiny scraps of information.  In fact, he's so ignorant (at times purposefully so) that he doesn't even know what's happening on the surface - he just blindly assumes it's bad and refuses to investigate any further.

(Spoilers ahead)

But where the movie really makes its point clear is when Winstead finally manages to escape.  Through a combination of patience, careful observation, and resourcefulness, she crafts a contamination suit and gas mask, learns the layout of the bunker, and hatches an escape.  Once she's in the outside world - vulnerable and alone - she realizes Earth has been invaded by aliens.  She does battle with a couple of them using makeshift weapons, survives, and hops in a car to drive away. Meanwhile, Goodman - the guy who plans everything out and thinks he's in control - is dead in his bunker, having been burned up by his own devices.

It's exactly my attitude on prepping, but played out visually and probably with fewer words.  The movie never points at it and comments; it just shows the difference between the mindsets.  Winstead survives because she learns as much as possible about everything that threatens her and reacts accordingly.  Goodman never tries to learn so much as he tries to maintain a status quo.  He just assumes that things will go according to his plans (up to and including keeping Winstead as a sort of play-thing / surrogate daughter) and when things go slightly askew, he tries to force them back.

What's even better about the movie is that it never condemns survival skills, which I think are totally worthwhile in the right context.  Learning to do things on the fly like patch a wound or make a gas mask are useful.  Winstead wouldn't have made it to the end if she didn't pick up those skills along the way.  The movie is smart enough to differentiate that sort of thing from doomsday prepping, so it never becomes overly simplistic or condescending.

It all builds up to the final scene, which is one of the greatest heart-pumping moments of bravado I've ever seen, despite the fact that there's no action in it.  Winstead is driving and comes to a stop at an intersection while listening to an emergency radio broadcast.  The broadcast mentions that survivors can go north to a shelter in Baton Rouge, or they can go west to help fight back against the aliens in Houston.  Winstead thinks about it for a beat, then turns west.

It could be out of gratitude for John Gallagher's character (I skipped over him above, but he's another survivor in the bunker who sacrifices himself so that Winstead can live) or it could just be newfound confidence in herself (you see at the beginning that she's running away from a failed marriage, so there's a subtle "I'm tired of running" arc at play).  Either way, that final moment is a quick and glorious way to show us that she's realized she can do something better than just sit in a hole and die slowly.  She's a survivor - and now she can be a hero.

It's just about a perfect movie.  It says so much that I want to say, but without actually calling attention to it - and when it's not saying anything, it's just a perfectly crafted thriller with some amazing acting and direction.

I loved this movie.  Go see it if you haven't.