By George Haigh
10 Cloverfield Lane is the secretive seq..
No, wait, let’s start that one again. 10 Cloverfield Lane is the ‘spiritual relative’ of 2008’s Cloverfield, both films produced by JJ Abrams. Despite a few subtle references to Matt Reeves found footage monster romp, that’s about as much as the two have in common. Originally a low-budget thriller titled ‘The Cellar’, the titled shifted to ‘Valencia’ before Abrams involvement with the project.
The film employs such a strict sense of simplicity in its confined setting that its claustrophobia is almost intoxicating at times. The film opens with Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who is involved in a car crash. Waking up in an underground bunker and being told by Howard (John Goodman) that it isn’t safe to go outside because of an ‘attack’, Michelle must figure things out for herself. Both of the leads are fantastic, with Emmett (John Gallagher JR) providing extra leeway to ensure the film remains fresh with ideas. The Hitchcockian tone of the film pushes its characters as far as the script simply allows them to with increased suspense as the film moves into exciting new sequences. Mary Elizabeth Winstead delivers a stellar performance which is so much more than the dated damsel in distress character and is often reminiscent of Sigourney Weaver in her prime. Goodman, on the other hand, is on Kathy Bates in Misery levels of creepiness. Whilst the tightly written screenplay keeps him as complex as possible, piecing together his morality and sanity is much more fun than it probably should be.
Thematically, the film shares loose similarities to Cloverfield. The two films both represent people with a fear of the unknown, but that’s about as much as it shares in terms of how the narrative plays out. Without spoiling anything plot related, if you care enough to know both the terrific viral marketing campaigns for each film, Abrams makes sure you don’t leave empty handed. Despite the many changes in its production (5 people contributed to the script). The inevitable weight of Cloverfield resting on first-time director Dan Trachtenberg’s shoulders isn’t obvious. 10 Cloverfield lane is surprisingly solid in its craftsmanship. Unfortunately, the script eventually runs out of steam and a heavy chunk of the third act feels especially convoluted, considering that this is a film that best works within its isolated compound. Tonally, the third act doesn’t really work, and audiences may feel a little cheated in its execution, but the time spent within that bunker is nail biting film-making. Forget the obvious eye candy in its title; this is a film that is much more than a spectacle of scary monsters. It’s about how human uncertainty can be just as terrifying too. As the tagline states, ‘monsters come in many forms’.