Let’s do the twist

SFX - - Reviews - Ian Ber­ri­man

re­leased 25 July 2016 | 12 | BLU-RAY/DVD Di­rec­tor dan Tracht­en­berg Cast Mary el­iz­a­beth Win­stead, John Good­man, John Gal­lagher Jr

Let’s get one thing clear straight away: this ain’t a Clover­field se­quel. JJ Abrams may claim that the two films share DNA, but it’s prob­a­bly about as much as hu­mans share with lob­sters… Let’s not carp, though, be­cause that mar­ket­ing sleight of hand en­sured a size­able au­di­ence for a film which thor­oughly de­serves it.

Mary El­iz­a­beth Win­stead plays Michelle, who, af­ter her car crashes, wakes up in an un­der­ground bunker. Its owner Howard (John Good­man) tells her there’s been a chem­i­cal or nu­clear attack, so they could be stuck down there for years. Is he ly­ing?

It’s a de­li­ciously Twi­light Zone-ish premise, but one which threat­ens a film that’s both claus­tro­pho­bic and a one-trick pony. Rest easy. The pro­duc­tion de­sign en­sures that Howard’s sprawl­ing, homely bunker never drives you stir crazy. And the cen­tral ques­tion is an­swered sur­pris­ingly early on – about 45 min­utes in. Af­ter that, the script de­liv­ers an­other two twists, both sat­is­fy­ing, and both care­fully seeded so that you don’t feel you’ve been cheaply Shya­malaned. The un­fold­ing story is per­fectly paced and ut­terly com­pelling.

That’s largely down to the per­for­mances. Though not quite a two-han­der – The News­room’s John Gal­lagher Jr rounds out the cast as joker-in-the-pack Em­mett – the film’s suc­cess does rest squarely on the shoul­ders of Good­man and Win­stead, and they prove more than up to the task. Good­man is a tri­umph: switch­ing from men­ace to charm in a split sec­ond, he’s re­lat­able at mo­ments and ut­terly ter­ri­fy­ing in oth­ers. Win­stead is equally im­pres­sive as a char­ac­ter whose gutsy de­ter­mi­na­tion and seem­ingly in­fi­nite re­source­ful­ness are hugely ap­peal­ing. JJ has neatly summed up the film as “the ori­gin story of a hero­ine”, and it’d be a shame if we don’t get to see the next act of her ex­ploits.

Ex­tras Seven fea­turettes (on the Blu-ray, that is – the DVD only gets three) and a com­men­tary by di­rec­tor Dan Tratchen­berg and Abrams. The fea­turettes (to­talling 35 min­utes) are pretty stan­dard, cov­er­ing sub­jects such as the bunker de­sign, the ef­fects and the score; be sure to check out one that shows how they filmed the car crash, us­ing a ve­hi­cle mounted on a rig to ro­tate it like “a big ro­tis­serie”. The com­men­tary, how­ever, is fas­ci­nat­ing, turn­ing this from a movie you’ll want to watch twice to one you should give a third view­ing. Tracht­en­berg is one of those di­rec­tors for whom watch­ing yak tracks was film school, and so is fully en­gaged, dis­cussing cre­ative choices; point­ing out in­stances of fake beard, con­ti­nu­ity er­rors and logic gaps; and flag­ging reshoots and other tweaks. Only an­noy­ing thing: this men­tions cut se­quences – in­clud­ing one where Good­man gives a speech about the 1812 siege of Va­len­cia – that are nowhere to be found. Don’tcha hate it when that hap­pens?

Early on, the voice of Michelle’s fi­ancé is pro­vided by Bradley Cooper. He lit­er­ally phoned in the per­for­mance.

Per­fectly paced and ut­terly com­pelling

Cold-callers: per­sis­tent.

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