10 Cloverfield Lane, directed by Dan Trachtenberg, is a film that fully drops you into a situation in which you know as little as the main character, and then leaves you there to squirm. There is almost no moment of rest in 10 Cloverfield Lane – you will at all times be tensed up and worried about what might be around the next corner. This is a film that never once holds your hand, and along with its main character you will go on an unsettling journey to discover the truth of what is actually happening – it’s great!
Now I don’t want to give anything away for this film, so my synopsis of the film will be brief and will reveal nothing that might give away the films hand before it’s ready to show it to you itself. In 10 Cloverfield Lane the story sees us following Michelle – played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead – who after a car accident, wakes up in a fallout shelter, being nursed back to health by a man named Howard – played by John Goodman. Things are of course not what they seem, and a plot slowly unfolds that leaves you withering in disbelief.
That’s last I’m really going to say about the story in this review as to go into any real detail would certainly spoil the unknowing nature of this film. Just know that the film succeeds (for the most part) in what it tries to do and I’m happy with the overall story in the film.
So the name of the game in 10 Cloverfield Lane is tension and this film is unrelenting with it. Apart from the opening of the film which is mainly some quick set-up, there wasn’t one moment in the film where I felt comfortable or confident in the main characters situation or well-being. Very few films are able to deliver such continuous tension while also being able to keep you fully attentive to the larger goings on of the film (Sicario is perhaps the only one in recent memory that pulled it off).
I think what aides the film in achieving this is the many finely tuned elements that go into making it work. The score for example, done by Bear McCreary (who you may recognise as the man who did the music for Battlestar Galactica or is currently working on the Walking Dead) brings his musical skills and adds such a thick layer of discomfort into the tense filled moments of the film. Whether it’s the scratching of a violin string in the mix of a suspicion filled dialogue scene or a slowly building piece of music that ultimately erupts as things escalate – the score is something that is always there, and is always more than willing to assist the film in its mission to keep you uneasy.
What also helps keep you at a state of unease is the films environment and the choice positioning of the camera. This may surprise you but there isn’t a lot of room in fallout shelters – crazy, huh? What this means is that things feel very claustrophobic and very… personal. The camera is never very far away from the characters nor are the characters afforded much space from each other. So with both the camera and the environment working so well together, it means that you, along with the characters, feel trapped and very up close and personal with everyone else.
This film is an intense experience – sure, not one that everyone will want to have, but for me, the way in which the film goes about handling its many elements meant that this was a film I couldn’t escape from, nor did I ever want too.
Something that was also quite refreshing about this film was structurally how the plot played out. The film set things up and then actually had those things come into play later on. The film is smart in this way and makes for a more rewarding watch. Set it up and pay it off, simple. The only thing I’ll say, which lost me, was a ridiculous escalation in the final moments of the film. Don’t worry I’m not going to spoil anything but it did leave me with a slight bad taste in my mouth – especially with the film being so brilliant up until that point, but hey, you can’t win ‘em all.
But now something that I absolutely must talk about and praise is the actors and the characters they play in 10 Cloverfield Lane. There are three primary characters, all who over the course of the film you learn about and settle in with (as any good film should do I guess).
Leading the film and being our quote un-quote partner in the film is Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s character Michelle. She is someone who is immediately interesting as she comes with baggage but the baggage takes the back seat a little as she has much more important things to concern herself with. I found it really easy to connect with Michelle and that’s because she came off as an actual real person who responded to her situation like any normal person would. She didn’t do any silly, eye rolling things that made her feel more like a plot device rather than a person – she didn’t wade into the shark infested water if you will. She was someone who was dealing with and discovering things in a way that felt genuine and this in-turn made her someone who you wanted to root for and follow along with on her messed up journey.
Alongside Michelle is Emmett – played by John Gallagher Jr. It is again a great performance that works really well within the film. Emmett adds a different dynamic to the film and that’s because his character is just so out-of-place in it all (in a good way). In any other setting Emmett would be someone who wouldn’t immediately stand out – that type of characteristic makes him a really interesting choice in the grand scheme of the film.
Next to them both is John Goodman’s character Howard and the best way to describe the performance by Mr Goodman in this film is, “Wow!” Not only is Goodman outstandingly chilling in this film, but unlike other times where it felt like I was watching John Goodman in a film rather than a character – in 10 Cloverfield Lane, Goodman never once misses a beat. His character Howard is creepy, weird, scarily powerful and has a temper that constantly keeps you on your toes. Goodman becomes this character and it is wholly frightening.
But the point that I want to end on is how brilliantly marketed and delivered 10 Cloverfield Lane was. The first trailer appeared 2 months ago and it gave very little away. Instead it teased enough where it meant that it was impossible to not be intrigued to see more. Add to that the title ‘10 Cloverfield Lane’. A new Cloverfield film, produced by J.J. Abrams and no one knew about it or let it slip. This is unheard of in the current climate of films. But the best part about all of it was how well it worked. No one really knew anything going into this film, the waiting time between the first trailer and release meant the excitement/hype didn’t die out and the most of all the film is really good. I think that this was a really interesting experiment by J.J. and his team over at ‘Bad Robot’ and is certainly something I’d like to see happen more.
So of course I’m going to recommend 10 Cloverfield Lane. This unexpected film is brilliant and from beginning to end kept be engaged, unsettled and curious. But now I need to go take a lie down for a wee bit so I hope you enjoy the film.
I’d love to know what you thought of 10 Cloverfield Lane so feel free to leave a comment down below. To keep up with my other ramblings you could either follow this blog directly or shoot me a wee follow over on Twitter – @GavinsTurtle (that link will take you directly to it). Last but very much not least have a joyous week and enjoy some good cinema.