Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Starring: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr.
“Anything that breaks the template and the expected way of things is always kind of fun to try.” J.J. Abrams’ words during an interview with The Verge explain pretty well what they were willing to do with 10 Cloverfield Lane. Dan Trachtenberg’s trapped in a bunker movie with John Goodman has been dubbed as a “blood relative” to Matt Reeves’ 2008 monster movie Cloverfield, and it is that in many ways, but it’s also so much more than that. It’s a film that stands on it’s own two feet, full of tension, intrigue and a barnstorming finish that I’ll try not to spoil for you.
10 Cloverfield Lane starts off with Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s character, Michelle, frantically packing a suitcase, while receiving calls from a man who we presume to be her boyfriend. We later hear him on the phone, and it’s the voice of Hollywood superstar Bradley Cooper, he seems to enjoy making voice cameos in films (Guardians of the Galaxy – a bit more than just a cameo in that movie though). Michelle then jumps into her car, obviously in a significant amount of distress, and drives well away from the big city lights.
Crazy is building your ark after the flood has already come.
Unfortunately, she escapes from one nightmarish situation only to crash headlong into another when her car is bumped off the road by a mysterious van. When she comes to, she finds herself lying in what seems to be a prison cell, chained to the wall. Enter John Goodman’s Howard, who tells her that she’s been in an accident, that she saved her and brought her into his bunker. Oh yeah, he also mentions that there’s been a terrible attack: maybe nuclear, probably Russian, it could also be aliens… who knows … and that she can no longer go outside. He also tells her that she’ll have to live in the bunker with him for just a couple of years. No biggy.
So I’ll stop telling you the plot now, mainly because I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but also because for the rest of the movie you are confined to three characters inside Howard’s cramped bunker: Howard, Michelle and an unusual fellow called Emmett. All three actors are brilliant. Elizabeth Mary Winstead is perfect as Michelle. She goes through almost every emotion imaginable in this film: terror, confusion, anger, hope, a lot of boredom, stress, shock, panic… She experiences it all and is the perfect lead. John Gallagher Jr. is a revelation in this film. He’s primarily known as a musician, but he shows that he knows how to deliver a line or two as well in 10 Cloverfield Lane.
I’m sorry, but no one’s looking for you.
However, the film’s real shining light is John Goodman. We’ve seen him do all sorts of things on-screen before. Yet in 10 Cloverfield Lane he’s doing something very new. Howard is incredibly menacing, terrifying at times, yet he’s can be very sweet, and it wouldn’t be a John Goodman performance without a few laughs, and there are a few moments in this film where he’ll really make you laugh. But it’s the mixture of menace and melancholy which really grabs you when watching his performance as Howard. He’s a man who’s experienced a traumatic event, which has severely affected him. Put simply, John Goodman is mesmerising in 10 Cloverfield Lane.
Tranchtenberg, who both wrote and directed the film was able to bring these three actors together and create something truly remarkable. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a tense thriller: it’s stressful, claustrophobic, genuinely frightening at times, full of humour and also puzzling. You’ll be trying to work out what’s really going on throughout most of the film’s duration. It really keeps you guessing until the very last few beats. He’s obviously taken inspiration from some of Alfred Hitchcock’s work: Rear Window, Vertigo and Rope to name a few.
NO! NO! No, no! No! Don’t open that door! You’re going to get all of us killed!
10 Cloverfield Lane was originally going to be called The Cellar, and wasn’t going to feature any ties to Cloverfield whatsoever. Yet Abrams and Tranchtenberg have managed to blend his original idea with the Cloverfield universe perfectly, and it works really well… or at least I think so.
Rarely is a sequel, or in this case a “spiritual successor”, better than the original, but in this case 10 Cloverfield Lane offers so much more than its predecessor did. It’s a much more interesting and thrilling film which demonstrates that less is always more. This is a lesson that filmmakers such as Zack Snyder need to learn (please excuse the slight dig at Batman v Superman)!