Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, John Gallagher Jr.
Directed by: Dan Trachtenberg
Cert: 15A Running Time: 103 minutes
It’s befitting that 10 Cloverfield Lane should turn up mysteriously on the film release schedule, peeping its head out from between the corn stalks and stepping out like an alien onto the film landscape. A distant relative of 2008’s sci-fi shaky-cam hit Cloverfield, it’s the more sophisticated Uncle perhaps, a more mature look at themes of fear and ultimately paranoia in a world potentially gone mad.
Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is having a very bad day. She’s just broken up with her fiancé, packed up her belongings and taken to the road, when her car collides with another and she awakens to find herself with an IV in her arm in someone’s private underground fallout shelter. Her rescuer turned captor Howard (John Goodman) tells her the world above their heads has ended due to a chemical or nuclear attack and everyone is dead.
Without spoiling anything the film is packed with surprises, some shocking, some that will make you jump out of your seat with fright. From the opening scenes played out to the exquisite score by Bear McCreary, it delivers everything you need to know from the outset – this is going to be an intriguing, mysterious, compelling and gripping ride.
With a primary cast of just three players the drama is close and claustrophobic. It’s initimate and like the setting there is nowhere to hide. It’s a testament to the airtight screenplay from Josh Campbell, Matthew Struecken and Whiplash’s Damien Chazelle that the film grips you in its setting and like Michelle, keeps us guessing as to what’s going on both in the bunker and indeed in the world above. Is Howard telling the truth or is he a psychopath? And what of his companion Emmet (John Gallagher Jr.), a neighbour who helped him build his doomsday retreat? Does he go along with what Howard is saying? Does she take Howard’s story for the truth and if so what are the implications of that?
Trachtenberg’s masterfully handles the setup, bringing his own unique aesthetic alongside influences from Hitchcock to Spielberg to Shyamalan as the film veers between genres touching post apocalyptic adventure, sci-fi paranoia, thrilling kidnap drama…each as intriguing as the other.
Winstead does an outstanding job never faltering in her determination to find the truth. Her heroine is strong, clever and wily and from the first frame you’re rooting for her. Goodman is brilliant as her kidnapper/saviour/conspiracy theorist, his performance swerving around all the tightly confined corners of his subterranean lair. He can say so much with very little dialogue, the clenching of his fist or squint of his eye bringing that sense of dread that perhaps he’s regretting his decision to rescue the damsel in distress after all.
As the film settles in the middle to more talk and less action, the tension evaporates slightly but it springs back with a bonkers finale that is well worth the pay off. 10 Cloverfield Lane is scary, exciting, visceral cinema. Not to be missed.