Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Starring: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr.
Please note: I firmly believe it is best to go into this film knowing as little as possible, and whilst I will absolutely avoid posting very specific spoilers, there will be some plot details that you might prefer not to know. That being said, I would still class this review as spoiler free so I hope you enjoy reading.
After being in a car accident, Michelle (Winstead) wakes up in a bunker, inhabited by Emmett (Gallagher Jr.), and the mysterious Howard (Goodman). Claiming that the world has been affected by a chemical attack, Howard assures Michelle that the bunker is the safest place to be…or is it?
Producer JJ Abrams described this film as being a “blood relative” of 2008’s cult film, Cloverfield, and it is absolutely worth bearing this in mind before seeing 10 Cloverfield Lane. We’ll get to how I believe this ties in with the original film later on, but do not go into this film expecting a film like Cloverfield. It is a completely different film, but one which I believe has a much more compelling story; I loved it!
10 Cloverfield Lane used an extremely clever marketing campaign which deliberately gave very little away, and this is echoed within the film itself as the characters, and us as the audience, don’t know the full story, and experience the unravelling of events in a truly nail-biting way. What this film does extremely well is playing on the fears of the unknown and of entrapment. We know very little about the characters, particularly the motives of Howard, and whilst some questions are answered, it still leaves an awful lot unsaid. I absolutely loved this! Not only did it lead to great discussions afterwards, but it kept that feeling of tension and unease going throughout, and beyond the slightly divisive ending.
This is a real slow-burner of a film, and one which would completely fall apart if it wasn’t for the strengths of the three main actors. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is fantastic, and it is a refreshing change from the first Cloverfield movie, to have a female character who is smart and resourceful. John Goodman also puts in his best performance in years as the unhinged Howard, treading that fine line between warmth and menace to absolute perfection. John Gallagher Jr. might not be getting the same attention, but he also puts in a great performance, is incredibly likeable, and has a great rapport with both Winstead and Goodman. They’re an eclectic bunch, but there is something that just works with their dynamic, and it’s great to watch.
A small technical thing which I loved was the sound design. Silence was used to great effect, alongside a tense score, but the sounds used really amplified the tension as well. The sound of the heavy doors opening became terrifying, and in one scene we literally hear a pin (well, screw technically) drop, and in the silence it appears deafening. In a contained environment, with very little plot to play with, it’s little touches like this which really helped to ramp up the tension.
Now, we come to the ending, and let me just emphasise I am not about to spoil anything here. You’ll soon notice that the ending comes under both the good and the bad headings of this review, but let’s start with the good. I didn’t like the ending to start with, but the more I thought about, the more I accepted it. I can’t honestly think of another way it could’ve ended and still kept it’s “Cloverfield” moniker, so for this reason I am fine with it. I liked that the ending left a lot of things wide open, answered some questions, but absolutely left me hungry for more Cloverfield; and this is what an ending should do right?
So it’s really only the flipside of the ending I’m going to bring up here, and once again I can assure you there are no spoilers! Whilst I did come to accept the ending, I didn’t like how jarring it was considering everything else that preceded it. I loved everything about this film, and then the ending threw me a bit of a curveball that was a little bit hard to process initially.
I fully understand that some people will dismiss this film based purely on the end, and whilst I’m not in that camp, I could’ve been, so I empathise with those who feel that way.
I saw this movie and you should too. It’s not Cloverfield; it’s better..tenfold (see what I did there)! As for where this film fits into the Cloverfield universe, my theory is it is happening at the same time the events in the first film are occurring, but I could be wrong, and that’s ok! There’s a lot in this film that is open for interpretation, but it will not leave you unsatisfied. It’s tense, thrilling, oddly amusing in places, and an all round enjoyable watch. Absolutely one to check out!
Agree with everything I’ve said, or am I a terribly misguided idiot who has got it all wrong? Please let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to share as well.