10 Cloverfield Lane


2008's Cloverfield was an effective, if somewhat gimmicky, found footage disaster flick that came out of nowhere to surprise audiences with its apocalyptic 9/11 metaphors and impressive effects. 8 years on and we have 10 Cloverfield Lane, a "spiritual sequel" that was revealed with cleverly minimal advertising and few plot details. Converted from a previous project known as "The Cellar" and subjected to extensive re-writes from Whiplash's Damien Chazelle, this is not the successor to the JJ Abrams' produced original that some may have expected. Instead, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a unique and claustrophobic psychological thriller that makes brave steps away from the genre boundaries.

The story centers around Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who, while fleeing from her fiance, is hit by a car. She awakes in a basement where Harold (John Goodman) tells her he rescued her from a nationwide attack by bringing her to his disaster shelter and that they are the only remaining survivors. This simple premise works in the film's favour, creating an unpredictable and gripping story that keeps us guessing for most of the running time. 

Winstead is excellent in the central role, delivering a powerful performance similar in some ways to that of Brie Larson in last month's Room. A vulnerable and confused character, Winstead displays grit and determination within the bunker and proves to be far more than just a sidelined "damsel in distress", more than matching Howard's brawn with her quick thinking. 

Goodman is equally on form, providing much of the film's unsettling atmosphere and tense, frenetic sequences. His impersonal, cold tone leaves us constantly rethinking his character and, as director Dan Tratchenberg does throughout, leaves us in the dark as to what fresh developments lie ahead. John Gallagher Jr. deserves praise too as the third inhabitant of the bunker Emmett, who goes from a thoroughly dislikeable to more sympathetic character over the course of the film.

The often blunt efficiency of 10 Cloverfield Lane is no more clearer than in the script, with every line foreboding of future events or carrying the story forward. Tractchenberg also takes liberties with the overall tone, creating several darkly comic moments between the central three and pulling off a number of effective scares. The air of mystery grows as the story progresses, keeping us sufficiently surprised by every fresh turn. 

The film excels most in the exchanges between Howard, Michelle and Emmett, with innocuous board games becoming fraught, unsettling affairs and mealtimes prone to outbursts and fits of rage. From the opening sequence, including a disturbing and highly effective credits scene, the viewer is thrown into a fractious and unnerving atmosphere that makes for effective thrills.

Let's be clear, this is a very different affair to Cloverfield. A claustrophobic and confined puzzler, 10 Cloverfield Lane does its very best to keep us guessing right until the end and it delivers. Winstead and Goodman's outstanding performances and a plethora of unexpected twists ensure Tratchengerg's film moves above the normal blockbuster shlok and pulls few punches, providing a unique and captivating blend of genres.