So is 10 Cloverfield Lane, which dropped as suddenly and unexpectedly - or at least with as little fanfare – a sequel to Matt Reeves’ JJ Abrams backed blockbuster 2008 found footage monster movie Cloverfield or not? The clue’s in the title, of course; perhaps it’s Abrams himself, on board here as Producer through his prolific Bad Robot Productions brand, who summed it up best when he described this new movie as the “spiritual successor” to the earlier hit. It’s best to go into this one with no real preconceptions but certainly if you’re expecting a film just like the original Cloverfield you might be inclined towards disappointment at first…but not for long.
10 Cloverfield Lane is an intense, claustrophobic gut-punch of a movie. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Michelle who, in the film’s urgent opening sequence, desperately flees New Orleans to escape from her fiancé Ben (voiced by Bradley Cooper) for reasons unexplained. In the dead of the night her car plunges off the road and she awakes to find herself a prisoner in a concrete-walled cell, attached to a drip and fed and watered by the ursine Walter (Goodman) who tells her that “there’s been an attack” and that the outside world has been all but obliterated. Michelle is understandably dubious – Walter’s clearly a survivalist nutjob – and she soon finds that she’s not alone in Walters’s admittedly well-stocked hideaway. She meets Emmet (Gallagher Jnr) who apparently witnessed the attack and fled to the bunker. It soon becomes evident that something has happened outside and the trio settle into an uneasy existence underground, prepared to sit out the two years or so it might take for conditions above ground to sustain human life. But when the bunker’s air filtration system breaks down, only Michelle can fix it and in doing so she makes a deadly and dangerous discovery, which changes everything for the survivors…
10 Cloverfield Lane grips like a vice from the outset and doesn’t let go for its hundred-odd minute runtime. The film is restless and uneasy, punctuated by a sense that something just isn’t right here, that the whole story isn’t being told. Edgy and discomfiting, we’re never allowed to sit back and relax; we’re waiting for the next trauma, the next moment of explosive confrontation. Winstead is brilliant as the resourceful, desperate Michelle but Goodman is quite astonishing as gruff man-mountain Walter and the relationship that develops between the pair crackles with tension and barely-disguised threat. The film’s slow burn eventually erupts into fire and violence and, without drifting too far into spoiler territory, it’s fair to suggest that fans of Cloverfield frustrated by the intimate human drama of the first hour or so of Cloverfield Lane are likely to feel a bit more at home with the extraordinary turn of events which send the last reel hurtling off into an entirely different, but no less exhilarating, direction.
But that’s not to suggest that anyone, fan of the original or not, is likely to be seriously disappointed or frustrated by 10 Cloverfield Lane. This is a gripping, unnerving drama (developed, incidentally, from a spec script originally entirely-unconnected to Cloverfield) which manages, in the end, to stay in the ‘world’ of the first film without slavishly aping its style or even its scenario. The film marries its sensational performances to an irresistible and uncomfortable story to deliver an intimate, almost low-key experience, which is sure to live longer in the memory than many of the brasher flashier blockbusters that lie in wait for audiences across the rest of the year. A wonderful and welcome surprise, a visit to 10 Cloverfield Lane is highly recommended.
10 CLOVERFIELD LANE / CERT: 12A / DIRECTOR: DAN TRACHTENBERG / SCREENPLAY: JOSH CAMPBELL, MATTHEW STUCKEN, DAMIEN SHAZELLE / STARRING: JOHN GOODMAN, MARY ELIZABETH WINSTEAD, JOHN GALLAGHER JNR. / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW