10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) Review

One from the to watch pile…
10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

Film: In 2008, J.J. Abrams presented us with a film about an alien invasion, that really had one of the most amazing monsters that I have ever seen in cinema history, but for me it didn’t quite work as it used a cinema style that I detest: the so called ‘found-footage’ sub-genre.

This is a sequel… Or is it? You’ll find that I am being deliberately ambiguous in this review as it’s hard to talk about without a massive spoiler, red alert light above my head. Read my synopsis and trust my resolve though, as you won’t be disappointed. The question is, is is this a movie about alien invasion, or something different with the name being the first in a series of clever sleight-of-hand trick to fool the watcher?

Watch and you’ll find out!

Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Michelle, a woman who in her life tends to run from every thing the second in gets too hard; in this case, a relationship. She gets in her car and leaves him, but whilst in the run, she is involved in a car accident.

When she wakes, she has her knee strapped, and I.V. plugged into her arm, but she doesn’t appear to be in a hospital… And she is chained to the wall. Very quickly, Howard (John Goodman) enters and tells her he saved her from the car accident and that he is continuing to save her by keeping her in a bunker as something has happened above ground.

Michelle quickly discovers she is also being held captive with another man, Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), but he actually wanted to get into the bunker as he believes he saw something, which he describes quite ambiguously.

So we have Michelle, trapped with an ex Navy officer who is clearly suffering from a psychotic break, and a young man who may or may not be complicit in his psychosis, in a bunker to protect her from ‘something’ that has happened above… How will she survive? Will she get out, and if so, IS there actually SOMETHING out there?

The first thing I have to compliment this film on is the absolutely perfect casting. The leads, Winstead, Goodman and Gallagher Jr play their roles perfectly. Winstead is delicate and resourceful, but not ‘my dad was an army ranger’ resourceful, instead it’s a realistic recourcefulness that comes from her desperation. Goodman’s portrayal of what appears to be a man suffering from some kind of horrific PTSD is so thrilling that from one moment to the next you just can’t tell how he’ll react to a situation. Gallagher Jr is good in his role too as Winstead’s maybe/ maybe not ally, and the evolution of his character is done well.

For a first time director, Tractenberg has created an amazing film that is claustrophobic both physically and emotionally and contains some moments that are so sudden that even my old-seen-everything-can’t-be-surprised eyes went wide and my mouth hung open for several minutes. From a fine point, he uses some fantastic devices to notify of the passing of time, that are so subtle that they are almost unnoticeable, like Winsted’s nail polish going from perfect to cracking off. It’s not a definitive passing of time, but it’s just noticeable. Broadly, he has simply created a film that is a definitive thriller!

This movie was like flipping your egg and finding out it was actually bacon. I’m not sure how many of you have read the book ‘Quake’ by Richard Laymon, but I got a huge vibe that was similar insomuch that whatever is happening outside is ambiguously deadly compared to the immediate danger from being trapped by/ with someone who has appeared to have somewhat of a psychotic break.

The environment of the film is amazing too. For three actors to spend 2/3 of a film in essential one set requires precise acting and direction to work, and work it does. The bunker is weird and lit wonderfully so that it all feels like a doomsday prepper’s actual underground domicile. 

It would also be remiss of me not to mention the wonderful score by Bear McCreary. It’s a traditional sounding score, but has layers to it that suit the film to a t.

I can see that some may compare this film to stuff like Captivity, but it has so many more levels, and when it does finally play its final hand, it shock is resounding. In one of the extras, a description says the film, and I’ll paraphrase, is like a bow being drawn for the first two acts, and released in the third, and that is the perfect description.

Honestly it’s been a while since I saw a film that was actually thrilling, and this is just that. Don’t necessarily take this as a direct sequel to Cloverfield or a film that takes place in the same universe, but instead a film that exists next to Cloverfield but tells a different story. Honestly I think this is where the Alien franchise should have gone instead of focusing on Ripley, it should have focused on the threat/ potential threat of the unknown.

Score: ****

Format: This is a modern film so one would expect that is would look and sound perfect, and it does. This is the Australian bluray release of the film and is presented in 2.40:1 widescreen with a Dolby 5.1 Atmos audio track.

Score: *****

Extras: A decent pile of extras on this disc.

First we have a commentary by director Dan Tractenberg and producer J.J. Abrahms which is an amazing introspective look not just into the making of this film, but filmmaking in general.

A bunch of featurettes also appear: Cloverfield Too (looks at the ideas of the film), Bunker Mentality (looks at the construction of Howard’s bunker), Duck and Cover (about the design of the hazmat suit), Spin-off (looks at the practical special effects), Kelvin Optical (looked at the visual and audio effects department of Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions), Fine Tuned (explores the score by Bear McCreary) and End of Story (is really just a summation of the pervious featurettes). These featurettes essentially were great, but in my opinion could have been mixed together into one pretty awesome filmmaking documentary.

Score: ****

WISIA: Even though the trick has played its hand, the performances give it a lot of rewatchability.

2 thoughts on “10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) Review

  1. This movie was a weird experience because I knew the director, Dan Trachtenberg, from years ago when he co-hosted a wonderful web series called ‘The Totally Rad Show’. Of the trio of hosts he was more the ‘movie review’ guy, and he clearly knew his shit.

    As that show wound down he started to get more attention in Hollywood, especially when his PORTAL fan-film went viral. So suddenly ‘Little Danny T’ was being attached to different projects, none of which eventuated.

    So when I heard he was doing this “top secret Bad Robot project” I was thrilled for him. I had seen him be taught to do manly things on the popuylar TRS segment ‘Dan Becomes A Man’, like drive a manual car, smoke a cigar and drink tea properly.

    Anyone who followed that show for its run grew a real attachment to those guys. Dan was always the sweet, slightly naive one who was clearly very talented. Much like I imagine Edgar Wright probably was when he first started out.

    I’m glad this was a big hit for him. I will always owe him (and the other guys from TRS) for introducing me to AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER, which has since become my favourite TV show ever.

    Liked by 1 person

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