Starring: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jnr
Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Would-be clothes designer Michelle (Winstead) has just left her engagement ring on the dresser in her fiancées flat, packed her bags and driven away into the night. As her boyfriend interminably calls her mobile phone in an attempt to receive an explanation, her concentration is compromised and she appears to hit another car causing her to crash through the safety barrier and down into thick woodland. She awakes in a small bare room on a drip with her knee manacled to the wall. Stern demi-giant Howard (John Goodman) enters and informs her that rather than being a captive, he has saved her life from an unknown apocalyptic event which has happened on the surface, and that she is now sheltered and secure down in his nuclear bunker. He initially presents her with food but he leaves her chained to the wall as he exits, locking the steel door behind him. She soon discovers Emmett (Gallagher Jnr), another resident in the bunker, and they slowly try to piece the clues together of what is genuinely going on.
Any description of 10 Cloverfield Lane has to be done with delicacy as not to spoil its constantly evolving narrative. The movies core strength is the mode in which it weaves its storylines with secrets, revelations and red herrings. It skilfully and ceaselessly teases out the plot, built primarily around the identity and motives of Goodman’s excellent duel portrayal of Howard, the sad paranoid conspiracy theorist who has seen his visions realised and Howard, the psychopathic scheming kidnapper. The film expertly stitches together a complex patchwork depiction of the man, relentlessly hinting and misdirecting his true background and intentions.
The tension gauge is never down less than nail biting as Winstead and Gallagher Jnr both pull off admirably realistic performances up against Goodman’s short-tempered authoritarian behemoth. There are moments of ferociousness and gore, but each one exists solely to tighten the screw on the tension.
The last quarter sees the film shift into high octane action thriller, which paradoxically feels disappointing after having your nerve endings vividly wound up like a spring for over an hour, yet it still manages to deliver. The ending will certainly polarise but then that’s surely what great art sets out to achieve, and whatever opinions of the last few minutes bring, it is impossible to deny the guileful way the story has escorted you there.
Whether the ‘Cloverfield’ tie in was a good idea or not is one you’ll have to decide for yourself. Is it as Abrams cited a ‘film in the same universe as the original’ or just a marketing ploy to gather bum-on-seats from the Super Bowl audience? Either way, 10 Cloverfield Lane fills its running time with colossal anxiety, tremendous narrative growth and has more twists and turns than will be found in any film this year.
8 / 10