10 Cloverfield Lane

Empire (UK) - - CINEMAS - Out now Di­rec­tor cast plot Ver­dict jonathan pile

Dan tracht­en­berg Mary el­iz­a­beth Win­stead, John Good­man, John Gal­lagher Jr.

Af­ter a road ac­ci­dent, Michelle (Win­stead) wakes up in a bunker with her cap­tor, Howard (Good­man), claim­ing Amer­ica’s been at­tacked. She re­solves to dis­cover ex­actly what’s go­ing on. s re­cently as the be­gin­ning of 2016, no one had heard of 10 Cloverfield Lane. For years there was talk of a se­quel to 2008 found-footage mon­ster movie Cloverfield but it had all but dis­si­pated — starved of new in­for­ma­tion from J. J. abrams or di­rec­tor Matt reeves, peo­ple had sim­ply stopped ask­ing them about it. and (in J. J.’s case) they had the small mat­ter of a new Star Wars to ask about in­stead.

In ret­ro­spect, given abrams’ his­tory of spring­ing sur­prises, this ac­tu­ally made it the ideal time for him to un­veil a se­quel. Or “blood rel­a­tive”, as he’s call­ing it.

an­nounced via a trailer in Jan­uary, and out less than two months later, it bears scant sim­i­lar­ity to the first film — gone is the found-footage shaky-cam de­vice. and rather than huge ef­fects se­quences set across an en­tire city, the ac­tion is claus­tro­pho­bic — con­fined to a few cramped rooms un­der­ground. also, there’s no gi­ant, city-de­vour­ing mon­ster. Un­less you count John Good­man.

We open with Michelle (Mary el­iz­a­beth Win­stead) flee­ing new Or­leans and a bro­ken re­la­tion­ship. It’s an al­most word­less se­quence, punc­tu­ated only by her ex-boyfriend plead­ing with her on speak­er­phone as she drives into the louisiana night. the near si­lence is es­pe­cially ef­fec­tive — the sud­den loud crash as her car is rammed is a shock scare to jolt you upright in your seat, the first of sev­eral times the film man­ages that feat.

Michelle wakes up in a sparse room, a drip in her arm, but man­a­cled to a pipe. alive, but a pris­oner. It’s here we meet Howard (John Good­man), the man who pulled her from the wreck, but is now her cap­tor. It’s his in­tro­duc­tion that strains cred­i­bil­ity, as he tells her, “I’m sorry, but no-one is look­ing for you,” as she bar­gains for her re­lease, de­lay­ing his re­veal of what’s re­ally go­ing on: the coun­try’s been at­tacked by en­e­mies un­known but they’re safe in the bunker. that in­for­ma­tion comes later, af­ter an es­cape at­tempt and more omi­nous state­ments from Good­man, but it’s clear she’s not in the im­me­di­ate phys­i­cal dan­ger she be­lieves she is, which lessens the ef­fect.

But it’s the only real mis­step. things pick up im­me­di­ately as the bunker’s third in­hab­i­tant, em­mett (John Gal­lagher Jr.), is in­tro­duced and the cen­tral con­ceit pre­sented — is Howard telling the truth (as the ev­i­dence ini­tially sug­gests) or is some­thing more sin­is­ter go­ing on? From this point we learn things as Michelle does, and her fear and un­cer­tainty are pro­jected onto us. the best she can hope for is that Howard is a good man, just not par­tic­u­larly ‘nor­mal’. But as time passes, it be­comes clear there’s a dark­ness in his past that threat­ens what she’s been led to be­lieve. em­mett sees it too, sug­gest­ing a po­ten­tial bucket list to Howard which in­cludes tak­ing “a pil­grim­age to Waco”.

It’s a smaller, more in­ti­mate film than the first Cloverfield would lead you to ex­pect, but that doesn’t mean it’s de­void of ac­tion. se­quences that see Michelle crawl­ing through ven­ti­la­tion ducts are par­tic­u­larly tense and un­com­fort­able (no “come out to the coast, we’ll get to­gether, have a few laughs” quip­ping here). the key to this work­ing is Win­stead. Good­man is good in the showiest role, but it’s Win­stead’s film, and she ably takes us with her on her jour­ney of ever-chang­ing emo­tions.

the im­pact that jour­ney will have on you de­pends on how much you al­ready know — the colder you go in, the bet­ter. so, see it be­fore some­one blurts out its se­crets. Good luck.

Abrams’ you-didn’t-see-this­com­ing an­nounce­ment was an ef­fec­tive piece of theatre, which the film it­self ably lives up to. A thriller that winds you tighter and tighter be­fore its se­crets come tum­bling out in a cathar­tic fi­nale.

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