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Review - 10 Cloverfield Lane

By midlandsmovies, Mar 30 2016 09:10AM

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) Dir. Dan Trachtenberg

Out of nowhere comes the completed film 10 Cloverfield Lane which was dropped like a bomb post-Star Wars as producer JJ Abrams continued his usual secretive marketing campaigns for films released under his Bad Robot company. Without any word of the film even being made, Abrams himself described it as "a blood relative" or "spiritual successor" to the first film, whilst the movie itself ditches the hand-held camera for a 3rd person perspective in a tense psychological thriller.

The underrated Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Michelle gets into a car accident after an argument with her boyfriend only to awaken chained up in a bunker after a mysterious man called Howard (a fantastic John Goodman) tells of an apocalyptic event outside. Also in the bunker is Emmett (John Gallagher Jr) but Michelle is unconvinced by their true intentions and in a desperate bid to escape witnesses an infected woman outside and realises there are in fact dangerous unknowns outside.

As the three slide into a routine inside their foxhole, Michelle continues to have doubts when strange messages and photos appear that seem to suggest that all is not what it seems. After being caught hatching a plan to uncover more, Howard enacts a bloody revenge which spurns a further breakout plot from their contained location involving a hazmat suit.

With a viral campaign and low budget, this is the second film in the Cloverfield “franchise” but could easily exist outside the bunker of that term as the film is itself an individual yet claustrophobic tale with a taught script delivered well by a trio of actors. The performances create a tense atmosphere, with the scares not only coming from the unidentified danger outside but from the human hazards in the bunker.

I’ve like Winstead in films such as brief roles in Die Hard 4 and Death Proof as well as her great turn as Ramona in Scott Pilgrim vs The World. Here she is caught up in threats to her own world – both global and her internal world with her immediate safety in jeopardy from the unhinged Howard.

[Mild Spoiler]

With the story being linked to Cloverfield there’s a certain inevitability as to what the threat could be but the film raises the stakes throughout and we wonder what is the greater danger: the monsters within or the monsters outside? As a possible metaphor for domestic violence, Goodman controls Winstead with psychological terror which echoes her escape from an unsatisfying relationship at the film’s beginning.

With the peril of the strange and unidentified, the film does a great job of creating “alien” environments, ones that are unsettling and disturbing with risks to humankind and humans. I did however feel the connection to the Cloverfield name was forced. Maybe you could argue the title alone opens up a new (and original) screenplay to a wider audience but do not go in expecting a direct sequel with city wide destruction. Almost entirely confined to the bunker itself, thisnarrative is played out well by the leads so I enjoyed the new direction but ultimately found the film to be imprisoned by its own need to play out the Cloverfield “name” - which somewhat undermined the nerve-wracking sequences established throughout.

A sound if unremarkable movie, I could see the Cloverfield franchise as a series of low-budget risk-taking anthology films which tackle a range of subjects played out against impending global cataclysm. This movie was therefore a solid yet slow start to that possible result with a dangerous drama full of conflict and catastrophe.


Midlands Movies Mike

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