A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Directed By: Dan Trachtenberg
Written By: Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken
Produced By: J.J. Abrams, Lindsey Weber
Starring: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr.
Running Time: 103 Minutes
One of the rare few films that isn’t classified as a sequel, prequel, sidequel or spinoff, 10 Cloverfield Lane‘s relation to 2008’s found-footage disaster epic is, to quote producer J.J. Abrams, “a blood relative”.
What exactly this means in reference to the greater world established in 2008 is unknown, and sadly, it’s the mere fact that this suspenseful, gripping claustrophobic thriller is of any relation whatsoever that ultimately serves as it’s crucial downfall.
For Matt Reeves’ Cloverfield, 2016’s 10 Cloverfield Lane is that distant second cousin, twice removed, whose relation the rest of the family can never properly explain. He’s nicer, modest, more clean-cut and definitely the better of the two of you. A quiet achiever to your bloated, over the top antics that, although successful, are rather polarising and outdated.
Nobody can quite explain how he fits in to the family, but knowing he’s around provides comfort for everybody, except for you perhaps.
Hitchcockian in structure and story progression, the film is enveloping from the opening ominous chords of the orchestral strings, and from that point on, with minimal dialogue for the first ten minutes, a perfectly balanced sense of curiosity and dread seep in.
What director Dan Trachtenberg is marvellously able to achieve from then on is a consistent level of tension that ebbs and flows but never stops. A thriller is meant to hook an audience in with ambiguity, anticipation and indiscretion, and refreshingly, 10 Cloverfield Lane is able to tick all the boxes… right up until it desperately tries to link the story into the world established by it’s “blood relative” (sorry to keep harping on about it).
Self contained and eerily slow paced, the film thrives through three excellent central performances, most notably that of John Goodman. Playing a mysterious, unnerving host to Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Michelle deep below the surface in a bunker, his presence is one that chills and unsettles anyone sharing his company, all the while prompting curiosity and self doubt regarding certain circumstances.
Mistrust is a crucial element in the relationship of the three primary characters, and like the classics of the genre so masterfully achieved, the audience are drawn to and from various players as the film progresses and the truth unfolds.
Is Goodman’s Howard a loony doomsday prepper, an unhinged psychopath or just a misunderstood man telling the truth?
Being made on a shoestring budget of $5million (US) and being thrust upon unsuspecting audiences some two months before it’s worldwide release, 10 Cloverfield Lane surprised, excited and intrigued many, particularly when seeing the in-favour J.J. Abrams was an executive producer and was returning to the Cloverfield property.
Coming out of the film, it’s a great shame that it wasn’t left to it’s own devices and given permission to venture where it suited the story best.
For seven eighths of the film, it was gripping, immersive and tense, far exceeding expectations. Yet it’s obvious that those involved found themselves clutching at straws to somehow tie the events of the micro-story into an expanded and previously established world which ultimately hindered the overall experience significantly.
For what will still be regarded as one of the surprise features of the year, 10 Cloverfield Lane showcased Dan Trachtenberg’s skill set as a director to watch.
Utilising classically inspired tropes and conventions of the thriller genre, whilst incorporating a modern touch through camera, sound and everything in between, this is a superbly crafted piece that is well worth your time, particularly if you enjoy a claustrophobic, escalating slow-burner.
The less-is-more approach furthers the film for the most part through stripped back dialogue, minimal special effects and a non-reliance on shocking reveals, however it’s the aforementioned last eighth of the film that seismically deviates in tone and pace that dampens the end product and overall experience in an enormous way.