Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

USA 2016
Directed by
Dan Trachtenberg
105 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Chris Thompson
3.5 stars

10 Cloverfield Lane

Synopsis:  While running away from her marriage, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is involved in a car crash. She wakes sometime later to find herself trapped in an underground bunker with survivalist farmer Howard (John Goodman) and local handyman Emmett (John Gallagher Jr). Howard tells her that, despite what she thinks, he hasn’t kidnapped her. He saved her life. He reveals that the world has been attacked by some unknown force, maybe the Russians or Al Qaeda or the Martians, and that there are no survivors above ground. But Michelle has doubts as to whether he’s telling the truth.

There are plenty of reasons to assume that 10 Cloverfield Lane is some sort of sequel to Matt Reeves’ 2007 Godzilla homage, Cloverfield. There’s the title for a start. And then there’s J.J. Abrams in the producer seat along with other Cloverfield alumni, Matt Reeves and Bryan Burk, as executive producers.  Plus, Abrams has been promoting the movie (originally, and more appropriately, titled "The Cellar") as a ‘blood relation’ to the original film (which sounds like the kind of sequel you have when it’s not really a sequel). Perhaps the success (in box office terms at least) of Cloverfield was a star they felt worth hitching their wagon to. Whatever the reason, it all seems to be a bit of unnecessary marketing hype. The bottom line though, for me at least, is that this is a much better film than Cloverfield and has precious little in common with it.

By and large, 10 Cloverfield Lane is not a horror film, nor is it really a monster film. Plus, it doesn’t have the relentless hand-held shakey-cam style that was the hallmark of the original’s ‘found footage’ conceit. By contrast, this is a well shot film that makes the most of its close-quartered, claustrophobic setting to create a tense, suspenseful chamber piece that revolves around our perception of Howard, played with a subtle ambiguity by Goodman. Do we believe his end-of-the-world story? Do we believe that he means them no harm? Well, yes…  and no… in equal measure for much of the film. He could so easily have been yet another clone of John Jarrett’s frightening but cartoonish Mick Taylor from Wolf Creek (2005) but Howard is a much more interesting and unpredictable character. Winstead is equally good as the smart and resourceful Michelle who has just a touch of MacGyver about her in the way she is able to adapt to the situation and find solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems by using the most ordinary of available means. In her own quiet way she’s a bit of an action hero.

What’s surprising is the slow burn of this film. Rather than resorting to a succession of cheap scares, Trachtenberg creates a far more malevolent undertone that disturbs and unsettles more than scares the pants off us. And it’s in this slow unfolding of the scenario that the characters find a lot more dimension than might be the case in a lesser film. There were times when the sensibilities and atmosphere of this film reminded me of M Night Shyamalan’s 2002 film Signs (for which I will admit having quite a fondness).

But, of course, there does need to be a denouement to these stories and, whilst it’s an entertaining and thrilling one, it doesn’t quite resonate with the feel of the earlier parts of the film that lead us to its climax. It’s far from a cop-out, but it’s hard not to feel like there might have been a cleverer and more thoughtful way to wrap things up.




Want something different?

random vintage best worst