Film review: 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE, from ‘Built For Speed’

The question has plagued the internet for months, is 10 Cloverfield Lane a sequel to JJ Abrams’ breakthrough 2008 movie Cloverfield? With a marketing campaign offering tantalising snippets of footage, the film has already had movie fans salivating with expectation. This film is a minefield of spoilers so to reveal too much about the plot would be unfair. This does, however, represent a major obstacle to critiquing this film as a plot shift will drastically affect people’s assessment of it.

Many will already know from the ads that the movie involves a young woman, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) being held prisoner in a bunker by what seems to be a doomsday prepper named Howard (John Goodman). Howard insists that some apocalypse has befallen the world and to leave the bunker would mean certain death from nuclear fallout or some other toxic threat. Howard’s increasingly disturbing behaviour, however, alerts Michelle and fellow captive Emmett (John Gallagher Jr) that all is not right with their host.

This bunker scenario makes up most of the film and director Dan Trachtenberg handles these scenes superbly. He makes terrific use of the confined setting to create a nerve-jangling tension and pervasive sense of threat as Michelle engages in a psychological battle with her strange captor.

Much of the success of these scenes relies on the fine cast performances. Goodman matches his intimidating bulk with a hair trigger temper, a propensity for bizarre paranoid outbursts and a domineering personality that makes Howard a genuinely disturbing character. Great actor that he is, Goodman also manages to find within this scary creature a thread of oddball humour. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is also terrific conveying a believable mix of fear and Ripley-like strength and resourcefulness.

Trachtenberg and writers Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken and Damien Chazelle are clearly a fan of classic thrillers as they lace 10 Cloverfield Lane with threads of other renowned nail-biters such as Psycho and Alien. This tendency to pay homage to other films is not always a virtue, though, as at one point the film disappointingly starts to borrow ideas from a host of mediocre movies; to say any more would, however, reveal too much.

For most of its running time 10 Cloverfield Lane is a superb psychological thriller but the entire package may leave some viewers slightly disappointed.

Nick’s rating: ***1/2.

Genre: Thriller.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Dan Trachtenberg.

Release date: 10th  February 2016.

Running time: 105 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


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