Film Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane


10 cloverfield lane review

Release date: 18/03/2016
103 mins | 12A
Writers: Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken and Damien Chazelle
Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr., John Goodman

In years to come, 10 Cloverfield Lane will be held up to film students as an example of efficient film making. Nothing is wasted with a small cast utilised to tell a much bigger story. But beyond the confined narrative, this is a masterclass in set-up and pay off with every element in this claustrophobic setting explored with near perfect pacing.

Following a car accident, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) awakens to find herself locked and tied up within a nuclear bunker. Her captor, (John Goodman) claims that he has actually saved her from an non-specific disaster and if she is to leave the bunker she won’t be able to survive the now toxic atmosphere. While she cannot be sure he is telling the truth and has plenty of reasons to doubt, his story is backed up by the charming underachiever Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) who apparently fought his way into the bunker. After some attempts at escape, the trio form an uneasy family unit and settle into life after the apparent apocalypse.

The performances are all excellent with the cast both gelling and repelling each other appropriately. John Goodman manages to pull off being creepy and unsettling coupled with moments of reassurance and fatherliness. It’s a nicely nuanced display where the character’s full hand is never revealed, nor do we need it to be. In addition John Gallagher Jr. gives real depth to a character that might have appeared shallow in less skilled hands. This is a film which is sparing with backstory with any exposition expertly revealed through dialogue and character interaction. all perfectly articulated in these excellent performances.

Have no doubt that this is absolutely Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s film. It’s a very well written part which gives her the opportunity a range of emotions from desperation to fight demonstrating her capability to articulate the most complex thought with a single look as well as showing great physicality. Basically, she’s brilliant and if someone isn’t thinking about building an intelligent, action franchise around her then Hollywood might as well pack up and go home.

It’s a film that knows exactly how to use its runtime, never feeling over long and deploying each pay off at precisely the right moment to keep the narrative mocing. The direction is perfectly paced with the editing and montage used to effectively convey the shifting moods with songs and montage utilised to create a deliciously off-kilter feel. This is enhanced by a brilliant score from Bear McCreary which would surely make Bernard Hermann feel tense.

As you would expect from this mystery box film, there are plenty of twists along the way and when there is a major shift in tone, it doesn’t feel forced. More importantly, there’s a character at the centre of it to care about, and who goes on a proper protagonist’s journey, with the events of the film changing them forever.

The release of 10 Cloverfield Lane has created a new mega-franchise proving once again that JJ Abrams and his team at Bad Robot are movie marketing geniuses. The fact that this film isn’t necessarily directly related to its namesake is no bad thing. In fact it suggests that the world is ready for a series of science-fiction anthology films.

Now Cloverfield isn’t just a name that audiences recognise, but it’s a statement of intent. If the producers can maintain this high standard of filmmaking then audiences will recognise this series as something intriguingly different and worthy of our time. This could be the start of something beautiful, if slightly unsettling.

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