10 CLOVERFIELD LANE
Let’s do the twist
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