SCOTT, Cameron, Kubrick, Spielberg, Lucas. All greats of the science-fiction genre. And within the last decade another has earned the right to be mentioned in the same breath, that of Abrams.
Once again we find JJ’s name attached to an enormous science-fiction release in 10 Cloverfield Lane. But this time the man who brought Star Trek and Star Wars back to mainstream cinema audiences worldwide isn’t calling the shots on set. That’s left up to Dan Trachtenberg with his first feature-length film – and boy what a film – but he’s got Abrams in his cutting room as producer with Bad Robot.
The trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane is one of the best I’ve seen and thankfully what the amuse-bouche promises from the chef is delivered in full with the main course. This is not so much a sequel to Cloverfield (2008), the fantastic found-footage monster movie shot from the perspective of New Yorkers on the ground as a Godzilla-sized creature rampages through their city (if you haven’t seen it yet, make sure to), but according to Abrams himself it is the first film’s “spiritual successor”. What he appears to mean by this is that it is a fresh, skilfully wrought original new movie ready for a discerning modern audience. And he’s not wrong.
There’s a megawatt of bright talent on this picture. Even screenwriter Damien Chazelle, of Whiplash fame, had some input in relative newcomers Josh Campbell and Matthew Stuecken’s script before heading off to write his own Oscar and Bafta-winning masterpiece.
The result is a clever, suspenseful thriller that brings Hitchcockian levels of tension and jeopardy to the screen as the tale twists and turns unpredictably. It’s scary too. Not gory or creepy scares, although there’s some of that, but proper thriller type scares. Moments when you’re gripping your neighbour tight, whether acquainted or not, and willing it all to turn out well in the end.
Proving just how fresh it is, 10 Cloverfield Lane‘s hero is a heroine, Michelle, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead who puts in a phenomenal “you’ll be seeing a lot more of me soon” performance and keeps us hooked throughout. She’s probably best known as Ramona Flowers from quirky comic flick Scott Pilgrim vs The World, though gone is the coloured hair and stand-offish demeanour. In this role she’s given a chance to really shine and sears herself onto our collective eyeballs.
She’s joined by John Goodman (of everything you’ve ever seen fame) in a role that, surprisingly, we’ve never seen him play before. Goodman is both terrifying and sublime as confounding oddity and conspiracy theorist Howard who has built a bunker in his farm for fear of nuclear fallout and now holds Michelle and handyman Emmett (John Gallagher Jr) “safe” inside from whatever calamity has taken place out in the world. Thanks to the top notch writing Howard is so much more than just a nutty weirdo and we’re constantly bemused about whether he’s genuinely looking out for the others or in fact wants to kill them and dissolve their remains in acid.
“Monsters come in many forms” reads the tagline. Make of that what you will.
The movie is in essence a three-hander, with Michelle, Howard and Emmett on-screen and in the claustrophobic confines of the underground bunker for most of it. In a wild turn later one, we finally see someone emerge from the subterranean dwelling to confront the new horrors of the world outside.
Final word: A tense and clever film that is sci-fi at its very best: telling human stories in extraordinary circumstances. 10 Cloverfield Lane will have you on the edge of your seat, hand over mouth, for the duration. Refreshingly original and brilliantly told.
If you liked 10 Cloverfield Lane you should also watch:
- War of the Worlds