In terms of marketing the Cloverfield franchise, as it is now, has been one of the most innovative of the 21st Century. When 2008’s Cloverfield trailer first dropped it was one of the cleverest and most impressive pieces of viral marketing ever produced. Using the growing success of Youtube as a launchpad and with social networking starting to consume the cyber sphere of the internet, getting people sharing the trailer through Facebook and Twitter prompted everyone to ask what is Cloverfield? Despite what you thought of the finished product the film made serious financial ‘bacon’ and in January 2016, two months before release, 10 Cloverfield Lane’s trailer dropped, the first mention of a supposed sequel and history repeated itself as people liked, shared and wondered what this new entity was.
Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has left her husband and is driving across the country when she is involved in a traffic accident. She awakes restrained in an underground bunker and is greeted by Howard (John Goodman) who tells her there has been an apocalyptic event and he brought her to the bunker, saving her life in the process. There is another man in the shelter, Emmet (John Gallagher Jr.), but Howard says everyone else is now dead, and she cannot leave the shelter.
10 Cloverfield Lane is not connected to its predecessor, and according to J.J Abrams he hopes to turn Cloverfield into an anthology franchise telling separate stories that are linked by theme/genre but take place within separate universes. An interesting premise that takes the recognisable ‘brand’ of the Cloverfield name and applies it to original ideas to give them a wider audience appeal.
With a first time director at the helm (Dan Trachtenburg) I was surprised by the impressive use of control the film has. It utilises the cramped conditions to create tension between the characters using the claustrophobic setting to trap Michelle in a paranoia inducing space. The lack of privacy, coupled with the unknown motivations of the characters makes an intriguingly taut thriller. What really makes the film so fiercely watchable are the performances of the triumvirate of Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr. and John Goodman. Winstead and Gallagher are both terrific; especially in the scenes their characters spend together. Their chemistry is fantastic, and the writing by Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken and Damien Chazelle (of Whiplash fame) allows the actors to take already great material and build upon it with a pair of hard working performances that amplifies the films unsettling atmosphere. Then there is John Goodman. Simply put, he nails it. As brilliant as the other performers are Goodman is a revelation, a pleasure to watch. A terrific actor, he manages to turn in a performance that is at times menacing, pitiable, hilarious and terrifying. Also I give a tip of the hat to Bear Mccreary for his tense and interesting musical score, after his rather uninspired work on The Boy, a welcome return to form.
The films climax may divide people with the direction it takes, however I found its final resolution highly fulfilling. 10 Cloverfield Lane takes a rather simple premise and excels beyond expectations through great direction, fine writing and storytelling and some wonderful performances by the three main players. I hope if you decide to visit 10 Cloverfield Lane, I do recommend it; that you are as entertained as I was.
**** stars out of *****
Review by Alexander Halsall