10 Cloverfield Lane Review

A film as surprising as it’s thrilling, and as unique as it is manipulative.

A well received hit in 2008, Cloverfield has been generating much buzz for years on the topic of sequels. However due to the high profile schedule of the creators, director Matt Reeves, writer Drew Goddard and producers JJ Abrams/ Bryan Burk, the project never took off.

A clash of two distinct ideas, the found-footage/shaky cam styled filming combined with the Kaiju genre truly produced something undeniably unique. Which is why many believed in the expansion of the Cloverfield universe.

Against conventions, teasers for Cloverfield were relatively low-key for a theatrical release, however its sequel 10 Cloverfield Lane took the approach to another level by not even announcing its existence before January this year – when the top secret trailer was attached to Miachel Bay’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.

It’s not unheard of for a film to have little marketing before its release, however 10 Cloverfield Lane is a sequel to a moderate hit and has been the subject of discussion for some time – which points to the fact that it’s rather peculiar the studio didn’t advertise it sooner. Nonetheless ‘ Mystery Box-Officing’ can often be a pleasurable surprise to viewers, and Trachtenberg’s directorial debut is a rare distinction among Hollywood films to actually manipulate this strategy. You’ll see what it means after viewing the film.

This review will not divulge any kind of plot reveal beyond introduction or what is included in the trailer. In fact don’t even watch the trailer; there are some films where spoilers should be avoided – namely Star Wars Episode Eight, but there are some where spoilers can be their absolute ruin. Beware of any spoilers for 10 Cloverfield Lane.

After a fight with her fiancé, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) drove aimlessly through the woods when she was rendered unconscious by an accident that pushed her off the road. Waking up she finds herself in captivity underground, with two men claiming that the outside world is no longer habitable after a chemical attack. Struggling with truths and lies, Michelle must delve deep into the psychotic mind of bunker-building conspiracy theorist Howard (John Goodman).

A long film requires considerably less detail in order to avoid the attention exhaustion of the viewers. However when a film such as 10 Cloverfield Lane clocks in at 103 minutes it’s the perfect length for such delicate crafting – as done exemplarily by Dan Trachtenberg in his directorial debut. Subtle things such as contrasting lightings behind Michelle and Howard to distinguish her captor’s mysterious or even sinister nature goes a long way in the gradual revelation of his true essence; the sets- though Michelle’s initial den appears cold and unwelcoming the living room is established to be quite cosy, and providing a background, a stage for the constant back-and-forth exchange of thrills/chuckles which throws us off balance, completely unaware of the events to come and utterly fascinated when they do.

Sound is another of the most distinguishable elements in 10 Cloverfield Lane, it serves as both the most shocking and disturbing components within a scene of great transition or thrill. In many instances, one can hear the sound of metal doors opening being suspiciously similar to the screams of a young girl, a subtle effect parallel to a hidden sub-plot. It also somewhat justifies the idea of seeing it in IMAX, where the stunning, sharp sounds could demonstrate the vast force it has on complementing the haunting story. Bringing about a sense of synergy across the screen.

One of the best films last year, where all elements of the movie worked together to bring about a unified vision of impact was Deveneau’s Emily Blunt/Benicio del Toro starrer Sicario. Similarly in 10 Cloverfield Lane, aspects such as the commanding cinematography where specific directions are given to distract and control couples with superbly penned-script delicately and masterfully showing the terrifying mysteries of monsters both physical and spiritual, in addition to the complex characters expertly portrayed by seasoned actors on screen everything truly came together, down to the last detail.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Michelle, a resourceful, strong woman of great determination and strength. Though we now have a gradually increasing number of women starring in powerful, central roles (Charlize Theron in Mad Max- Fury Road), it’s still quite rare to see a female character on screen who’s not only extremely intelligent, but equally calm and not at all pitiful or weak in the stereotypical view of women we so often see. Winstead does a wonderful job demonstrating these traits, while maintaining an equilibrium of balanced madness as represented by Howard the perplexing villain.

Having won both a Screen Actors Guild Award for Argo and Golden Globe of best TV comedy/musical actor for Roseanne, the seasoned John Goodman has never in his career been nominated for an academy ward. Yet in 10 CLoverfield Lane he presents an unmatched degree of alluring complexity as he portrays a character of great depth. Is Howard a chilling psychopath out to do ensnare and destroy? Or is he just a conspiracy theorist too smart for his, and Michelle’s goods? He keeps us guessing until the end with a unique, grounded acting style that seems so real and natural to our eyes.

The third act is completely bewildering, and a pure nail-biting thriller capable of making you forget the need for air. The style and story becomes another film altogether yet the eerily haunt still rings in our ears, as Michelle gets thrust into an all new kind of threat. However persistently the film comes back again to its theme – ordinary human in extraordinary situations, their senses challenged and their minds trembled again and again.

Overall 10 Cloverfield Lane is one of the best directoral debuts of all time, featuring a visionary director, producer, scribes coupled with gifted actors at the top of their game. It’s enthralling, confident, and most captivating to the point where you forget the outside world, what remains is only Howard, Michelle, Emmett and the bunker.

In theatres Australia wide from 10th of March

Find Showings Here

MPAA Rating: PG-13

ACB Rating: M

Run Time: 103 min

-Henry Pan

An overzealous film critic wannabe, Henry Pan makes a trip down cinema lane once a week, in order to decrease his ever-increasing massive watch list. You can follow him and hear all about his rants on films, life and pet dogs on Twitter @LifeOfPan.