By Adam Ray Palmer
Today’s review comes courtesy of the mega-producer himself JJ Abrams – no, not another episode of Star Wars just yet but instead, the sequel to Cloverfield.
10 Cloverfield Lane opened in theatres last Friday and has been taking the box office by storm. The sci-fi-drama-thriller has been getting great reviews from around the world and I am about to give it another positive one too…
After getting in a car accident, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is held in a shelter with two men (John Goodman and John Gallagher Jnr), who claim the outside world is affected by a widespread chemical attack.
We first see Michelle packing her bags and driving away from her fiancée’s Chicago apartment (a bit of trivia for you – her fiancé who we only hear on the phone is played by Bradley Cooper). Later that night, she has a car accident and wakes up in a bunker owned by her ‘captor’ Howard. Howard (John Goodman) is a Navy veteran who seems very unnerving but he insists that he is in fact her rescuer and not abductor. He also reveals a ‘chemical or nuclear’ attack occurred at the point of the rescue but she questions his tale. However, another resident in the bunker, Emmet (John Gallagher Jnr) backs up his story and suggests they could be the only living people left on the planet – it’s all intriguing isn’t it?!
Dan Trachtenberg, a first-time director, has an incredibly difficult job with this movie. He deals with a very small cast and its set in one small location. Your immediate worry is whether the crew can sustain an engaging plot for the 100-minute runtime – but fear not.
The three biggest wins for director with this budget film are the two lead actors, the writing and the Marketing team. Winstead is wisely deputised in every scene of the film, she is the audiences’ connection throughout. We see everything that occurs from her viewpoint and this increases the suspense through her intense performance. The difference with her character in 10 Cloverfield Lane to other films with a vulnerable central protagonist is her personality. While you'd expect Michelle to be a lost puppy type of figure, she is in fact a tough and intelligent woman that gives the film an extra dimension.
Her competent personality bounces off her co-star John Goodman’s character perfectly. Goodman, for me, is the scene-stealer. He adds so much intensity to every scene and you have no idea what is going to happen next. He switches between insanity and kindness so often it just adds to the mystery. The ‘outside world’ theories he preaches throughout the film makes the audience want to believe him and therefore double-guess every that is actually going on – it’s a masterful piece of writing.
The writing team of Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken and Damien Chazelle (Whiplash – my film of 2015) are behind this great production. JJ Abrams, the producer, switches up the writers from its predecessor Cloverfield in 2008 which could have been risky. Cloverfield became a cult film with the way it was shot and marketed. However, I personally believe they have raised the bar with this instalment - it’s kind of like Room with a sci-fi edge.
The Marketing team should take some credit for this production too. 10 Cloverfield Lane was only announced two months ago yet it has actually been two years in the making. The secret project title of ‘Valencia’ kept everything under wraps which is actually pretty ironic with the film’s narrative. The marketing campaign could have in danger of overhyping 10 Cloverfield Lane but instead it gave the film its own platform. The most impressive factor is how it is part of the Cloverfield series but, once you’re in the cinema for the first 30 minutes; you know it can stand alone and in fact it actually shares very little in common with its predecessor.
On the whole, it is a very intelligent film and contains exquisite acting. The audience are constantly lured in different in directions for 100 minutes but every so often pushed back with more questions. It could easily annoy movie-goers but I think the crew have the right balance. I found it gripping from start to finish and I loved having the feeling of being involved. The film is so contained that you actually feel trapped with them. All you can do is sit on the edge of your seat and enjoy the twist and turns, but ultimately; it’ll make you question everything.
Cineroom’s Rating: 4 Stars
10 Cloverfield Lane is currently showing in selected cinemas worldwide – certificate 12A