Review – 10 Cloverfield Lane

Alfred Hitchcock may sadly no longer be with us, but the Master of Suspense would surely have approved of this absorbing psychological thriller.

So what next for this cross-genre film series after 10 Cloverfield Lane? A romantic comedy? Film noir? Either way, count me in

So what next for this cross-genre film series after 10 Cloverfield Lane? A romantic comedy? Film noir? Either way, count me in

It’s impressive in this day and age to produce a movie that’s so far under the radar it’s mysterious and intriguing trailer is pretty much all that anyone really knows about it prior to release.

The fact that it was renamed 10 Cloverfield Lane (developed from a script called The Cellar) and was touted as existing in the same universe as Cloverfield (2008) only served to whet the appetite even further.

Just what you need - Roseanne's Dan Conner trying to get in

Just what you need – Roseanne’s Dan Conner trying to get in

While its association with Matt Reeves’ found footage creature feature (it’s been deemed a “blood relative”) has no doubt helped to raise the profile of what would otherwise have been a low-budget thriller, the move courtesy of marketing puppet master J.J. Abrams could so easily have backfired had Dan Trachtenburg’s debut feature not been as smart and tightly wound as it is.

Indeed, 10 Cloverfield Lane stands very firmly on its own two feet thanks to a confident narrative that’s as compelling as it is suffocating and uniformly excellent performances from its terrific trio of actors.

I think we know something bad's around the corner in 10 Cloverfield Lane

I think we know something bad’s around the corner in 10 Cloverfield Lane

Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Michelle, who awakes from a nasty car accident to find she’s confined to an underground bunker owned by Howard (John Goodman). Howard claims that, rather than being her captor, he’s actually saved her from an apocalyptic event that has turned the outside air toxic; an assertion given credence by Emmett (John Gallagher Jr). However, is everything it seems to be; both inside and outside the bunker?

The Hitchcock homage is present from the first shot of the film – Michelle hurriedly packing a case and leaving town is straight out of the opening of Psycho (1960), while it’s no accident that Bear McCreary’s jittery score invokes Bernard Herrmann.

Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) does her best John McClane in 10 Cloverfield Lane

Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) does her best John McClane in 10 Cloverfield Lane

Likewise, the air of paranoia, mistrust and switching sympathies was present and correct in much of Hitch’s work, while the (mostly) single location brings to mind the psychological suspense of Rope (1948).

Goodman once again proves why he’s one of the most versatile characters actors at work today, delivering a performance that veers between creepy, sinister, misunderstood and sympathetic. Goodman’s imposing physical presence is often juxtaposed with a softness of touch that makes you question whether he’s nuts, canny or both.

Gallagher Jr also brings his A-game, playing a nice-but-somewhat-dim former jock who once had the chance to escape the clutches of his small town but chose to stay put (a nice analogy of his present predicament).

What's that? Godzilla's up there?

What’s that? Godzilla’s up there?

Winstead, meanwhile, is excellent as Michelle, a refreshingly resilient ‘final girl’ who makes smart, informed choices and proves herself to be far stronger than she first thought. A nicely played exchange with Emmett (in which the characters have their backs to each other whilst being separated by a concrete wall) reveals more about Michelle’s inclination towards flight rather than fight and is brought to mind during a pivotal moment at the very end of the film.

Trachtenburg weaves in plenty of neat touches, including a cute montage of the trio playing the perfect nuclear (bunker) family, which highlights the absurd ‘normality’ of their situation and is nicely reminiscent of the playful ‘life goes on’ montage amid the devastation of the outside world in Dawn Of The Dead (1978).

So what next for this cross-genre film series? A romantic comedy? Film noir? Either way, count me in.

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30 comments

  1. table9mutant · April 1, 2016

    Nice review! I’m glad that so many people liked this one. I hate that I didn’t instantly love it. I think I hyped it up too much in my mind. I’m hoping it’ll grow on me! I AM very much looking forward to more films, though. 🙂

    • Three Rows Back · April 1, 2016

      Cheers buddy. I must admit that I went into this not expecting too much, which is why it was so pleasantly surprising.

  2. Cindy Bruchman · April 1, 2016

    I was so impressed with John Goodman’s performance. It’s the best I’ve ever seen him act. The premise was believable and his character swinging back and forth from creepy to nice was masterfully done. Everything was great UNTIL she escaped. Then it instantly crashed for me.

    • Three Rows Back · April 1, 2016

      You’re not the first person to say that Cindy. Personally, I thought it capped off Michelle’s evolution from flight to fight, although it did it in an interesting way!

  3. le0pard13 · April 1, 2016

    Surprised myself by liking this so much. John Goodman was mesmerizing, and another wonderful performance by Ms. Winstead.

    • Three Rows Back · April 1, 2016

      Absolutely. I was pretty surprised myself. Great performances are matched by a really taut narrative that kept me on the edge of my seat.

  4. ruth · April 1, 2016

    I wasn’t intrigued initially Mark, but your review just made me reconsider. I just might give it a rent even though I haven’t seen the first film. Hopefully the shaky-cam stuff isn’t as extensive as the first movie.

    • Three Rows Back · April 1, 2016

      The shaky cam is almost entirely absent you’ll be pleased to know. It’s a *very* different film!

      • ruth · April 1, 2016

        That’s great to hear Mark! I do like the cast (Goodman and Winstead) so I’ll be up for this.

  5. Stu · April 1, 2016

    I liked it too. Good review mate, I like the links you make to Hitchcock, and hadn’t picked up on the connection. Had no problems with the ending, personally – it’s a science fiction film with the word Cloverfield in the title, after all.

    • Three Rows Back · April 10, 2016

      Hey Stu, apologies for the late reply. Am trying to get back onto my blog after a few mad months. Hitch is among my very favourite directors; it’s amazing the amount of films that have one of more Hitch references. I had no problems with the ending either, although my other half had other ideas.Thanks for the kind words mate.

      • Stu · April 11, 2016

        No worries mate! I’ve been offline for a week anyway.

      • Three Rows Back · April 11, 2016

        I’d noticed! You normally put me to shame!

  6. Dan O. · April 1, 2016

    Ends on a bit of a silly note, but still works well for the longest time. Nice review.

    • Three Rows Back · April 10, 2016

      Well, that ending has gone either way with reviewers, with some rolling their eyes and others giving in. I’m in the latter camp, sorry!

  7. ckckred · April 2, 2016

    Nice review man. A solid movie for sure and one that fits very well in the Cloverfield universe. Watched the original yesterday again and I forgot how good of a movie that was.

    • Three Rows Back · April 10, 2016

      Much appreciated buddy (sorry for the late reply). As soon as I watched this I added Cloverfield to my Netflix My List. It’ll be watched again very soon. Thanks again.

  8. Chris Evans · April 3, 2016

    Great review, I think announcing it as a ‘blood relative’ to Cloverfield certainly raised the profile of this film and certainly piqued my interest. Will be giving it a rent when the home video release comes.

    • Three Rows Back · April 10, 2016

      Well worth a rent (I’ll be rewatching it that’s for sure). Thaks for the feedback buddy.

  9. Tom · April 3, 2016

    I love the Alfred Hitchcock comparisons. How I didn’t make those myself is beyond me. Wait a minute, I’m an uncultured swine and have seen very few of his films! Ahhhh, there we go . . . 😉

    This was a great one wasn’t it? One of my very favorites of the year thus far.

    • Three Rows Back · April 6, 2016

      Ha ha, don’t be ridiculous Tom! Your reviews show that have a great grasp on cinema in my book. Yeah, this was a blast; definitely a contender for surprise of the year.

  10. Jordan Dodd · April 5, 2016

    Great write up! I agreed with basically every word you said 😀 This one really was a surprise hit huh?

  11. vinnieh · April 6, 2016

    Fantastic review, seems like everyone is talking about this movie at the minute.

    • Three Rows Back · April 6, 2016

      Thanks buddy. Yeah, it’s a must see for me. Try to catch it before it leaves theatres.

  12. Pingback: Everybody’s Chattin + Music Break: Pride + Prejudice + Zombies (2016)
  13. Victor De Leon · April 10, 2016

    heard and read so many good things (including your write up) about this. now, with the Hitch comparisons, I’m even MORE eager to see this. good review, man!

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