10 cloverfield lane
Our verdict on the shrouded- inmystery follow- up to Matt Reeves’ 2008 monster thriller.
released OUT NOW!
12A | 105 minutes
Director Dan Trachtenberg
Cast John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth
Winstead, John Gallagher Jr
“You’ve got some fight in you,” creepy Howard ( John Goodman) says to Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s plucky Michelle, inadvertently making the understatement of the year. “I can respect that.” Howard’s describing Michelle’s reaction to her current predicament, but he could be outlining 10 Cloverfield Lane’s production history. It’s very much the little film that could.
Conceived as a micro- budget potboiler, it uses ( for the most part) a single set and a ( very) low cast count. The opening acts save as much cash as possible, before the filmmakers drop a stack of third- act surprises that are much more impressive than they would’ve been if they’d stuck to the original plan. It’s a trick several indie films have successfully pulled off, but which hasn’t generally been utilised for larger blockbusters. As a result, 10 Cloverfield Lane feels like the biggest budget low- budget film ever made – and a major reason for that production value is the title.
For those who don’t know the backstory: Lane originally didn’t have anything to do with Matt Reeves/ Drew Goddard/ JJ Abrams’s found- footage monster movie masterpiece at all. After a script titled The Cellar was picked up by Paramount, it found its way into Abrams’s inbox, and the producer agreed to slap Cloverfield on the cover, calling it a “blood relative” to Reeves’s movie. With Abrams attached, applying the same stealth marketing Cloverfield cleverly utilised in 2008, and allowing the ad- cutters to play up the Cloverfield angle, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is a direct sequel.
But such a description would be a tiny bit deceptive. If Cloverfield was Godzilla on the streets, 10 Cloverfield Lane is more like The Mist in a bunker. Like Frank Darabont’s film, it uses an extreme situation to create claustrophobic, paranoid tension, with humans the real monsters you have to look out for. Where Cloverfield put lightly sketched characters into extreme peril, shoving them from one action setpiece to another like they were being guided around a theme park, Dan Trachtenberg’s camera is far more focused on his cast’s faces; their inner demons.
It makes for a mesmerising watch. The performances are uniformly excellent, with Mary Elizabeth Winstead a stand- out. The story follows her journey from fiancé- ditching runaway to bunker- based prisoner ( after Howard “rescues” her, keeping her captive for her own good, and explaining that a chemical attack has rendered the air outside deadly), to, well, spoilers.
This really is the best we’ve seen from Winstead, making a Rey- level resourceful heroine empathetic and believable. Props also to John Goodman for adding layers to a potentially pantomime survival
Feels like the biggest low- budget film ever made
obsessive, with his highlight moment involving one of the tensest boardgames since Monopoly round the Milibands’, Christmas 2010.
It’s a brilliantly written scene, typical of the script in general, which contains plenty of twists and some of the most solid internal character logic we’ve seen for a long time. Well, until we get to the third act, and a couple of videogame- style narrative short cuts that feel too much like cheats to be truly satisfying.
Speaking of that ending, the film’s final revelations will surely prove divisive. This is more like an episode of the ’ 90s reboot of The
Outer Limits than a true follow- up to Cloverfield. In fact, remove the early Slusho reference that places it in JJ’s universe ( it’s before the credits, eagle- eyed Easter Egg hunters) and you’d be hardpressed to find any links to that film at all. If this is the start of a series of “Cloverfield Presents”style flicks in which different characters are reacting to very different events during a specific time period, then we’ll buy it as a concept. But if this really is the only Cloverfield sequel we’re going to get then it feels like fans of the original are being short- changed.
Still, the film’s fine performances and comparatively complex script mean it shouldn’t be dismissed, and if putting
Cloverfield on the poster means more people sit down to watch it, then more power to the filmmakers. Let’s hope audiences aren’t too disappointed with what they find; it would be a shame if subverted expectations hurt a film that deserves respect.
That’s the trouble with putting an erotic lithograph on the ceiling.
Elsie couldn’t even bear to face the picture on the wall.