Directed by Dan Trachtenberg
Cast - Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, John Gallagher Jr
Running Time – 103 Minutes
The film opens with Michelle, (played brilliantly by Winstead), leaving her boyfriend after what he describes as a ‘fight’. Driving down a long road in rural Louisiana, listening to radio reports of a series of blackouts in major cities, her car is suddenly struck and tipped over. When she regains consciousness she is in a bunker, her injured leg in a homemade brace and chained to a pipe, while a stranger (Goodman) tells her there’s been an attack outside, the air is contaminated, and she cannot leave.
To say much more would rob you of the enjoyment of the film’s mystery. It’s best to go into it with as much information as Michelle has; to share in her disorientation and unease as she tries to work out if she can trust the seemingly affable Emmett (Gallagher Jr), whether the threat outside is genuine, or whether she is in more danger inside with her alleged rescuer Howard.
The performances from the three actors are all excellent. Winstead as Michelle is smart, resourceful and strong, while still conveying a sense of vulnerability and frustration at her situation. Her interactions with Emmett form the tentative beginnings of a nicely platonic friendship, bonded by their shared concerns with Howard, played with terrifying unpredictability by Goodman, one of the most consistently watchable character actors of the last thirty years. Howard, like the film as a whole, is constantly switching and surprising, revealing contradictory layers that wrong-foot the audience and highlight the themes of paranoia, trust and abuse.
If you are holding off on seeing 10 Cloverfield Lane because you haven’t seen or even didn’t enjoy 2008’s Cloverfield, know that this is not a direct sequel, but instead what the creators are calling a ‘spiritual successor’. It shares only one word in its title, a threatening tone and certain thematic similarities. Apparently this is a standalone chapter in a Twilight Zone-esque anthology series of films, a comparison made by the creators which gives some indication of the final ten minutes, which can seem a little jarring on first viewing, but after considering the central themes of the story, I think it does make sense.
The divisive nature of the ending is really the only potential flaw I can see, and I think that even if you find that it stretches your credulity too far, there is more than enough to enjoy in the first ninety minutes to recommend the film. In my opinion, in a weekend dominated by the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, anyone exhausted by the prospect of a two and a half hour destruction fest should look towards 10 Cloverfield Lane. For the most part, this is a pared down, intense three hander with great performances, tension and skilful use of a claustrophobic setting. I’m definitely going to see it again.
Review by Calum Maclean, 26 March, 2016.
See more from Calum at Almost Poetic Writing