10 Cloverfield Lane
“I’m sorry, but no one is looking for you,” rumbles John Goodman’s doomsday prepper Harold to a shocked and confused Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) in the first act of claustrophobic thriller 10 Cloverfield Lane. Apt words, given her situation, and doubly so considering that JJ Abrams, whose enigmatic star has been on the rise with barely a setback for over a decade, has once again successfully kept the major secrets of a movie under wraps prior to its release.
This spiritual successor to 2008’s found-footage monster flick Cloverfield began life as a working script titled The Cellar and was only taken on late in development by Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions. The upshot here is that global audiences only had their first taste of this palpably tense piece of cinema a mere eight weeks before its release, largely obscuring any twists and turns from public knowledge. It’s a good thing too as viewers will want to come into this superbly laid-out movie blind to its secrets.
Representing director Dan Trachtenberg’s feature-length debut, 10 Cloverfield Lane is set in Harold’s well-stocked doomsday bunker, where looming Harold, wary Michelle and local labourer Emmett (John Gallagher Jr) find themselves, for various reasons, after an unexplained but presumably deadly “attack” on the United States. From the brilliantly arresting title cards to an ever-present sense of dread and unease, Trachtenberg does a great job of keeping the focus on his characters, using impeccably clean shots that allow Goodman and company to hammer home the realities and tensions of their situation.
Goodman especially excels: from the get-go his morals and motives remain ambiguous, and his gruff delivery is tinged with just enough menace to leave audiences wonderfully unsettled, even when he isn’t on-screen. Indeed, his ominous spectre provides Winstead and Gallagher Jr the fuel to shine, with Winstead’s increasingly steely performance standing out alongside Goodman’s quiet anger.
That the story keeps viewers not only guessing, but happily so until the final scenes of the film, is a testament to its strength. Combining solid pacing, clear cinematography and an expertly delivered story, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a masterclass in tense, claustrophobic cinema.
10 Cloverfield Lane is released nationwide on 18th March 2016.
Watch the trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane here: