Release date: 18th March 2016/Watch the trailer here
It’s strange to think that when 2016 started, no one knew that 10 Cloverfield Lane existed. Then, one day in January, a trailer dropped. Set to ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’, with next-to-no dialogue and very few revelations in the way of plot, nothing linked the mystery trailer to its 2008 predecessor, aside from the familiar name of J.J. Abrams – and then that word: Cloverfield.
In this day and age where it’s commonplace for a film’s trailer to give away seventy-five per cent of the plot – followed by TV spots and sneak peaks and exclusive clips and tell-all magazine features – it was exciting for me to settle down in my cinema seat with no idea what to expect from the film that I was about to watch. 10 Cloverfield Lane relies heavily on this idea of the unknown and the unexpected, which makes it difficult to write a spoiler-free review.
The film opens with Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) leaving home after having an argument with her fiancé (played via a brief voice cameo by none other than Bradley Cooper). The tension is ramped up from the get-go thanks to Bear McCreary’s stunning score, but it doesn’t take long for the horror to kick in too when Michelle awakens to find herself chained up in a locked room following a car accident. Michelle has been ‘saved’ by the ominous Howard (John Goodman), who swears that the world outside has been all-but destroyed by an attack, and that by locking Michelle – and his neighbour, Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) – within his underground bunker, he is protecting them from the horrors of above.
What plays out for the following ninety minutes is a series of questions, shared by both Michelle and the audience: has there really been an attack, or is Howard just a crazy doomsday fanatic? Is Howard a good guy or a bad guy? And, perhaps most pressingly: is this film related to Cloverfield at all?
The film careens frustratingly from one answer to the next – just as we are convinced that Howard has kidnapped Michelle and that the world aboveground is the same as it’s always been, we are given reason to believe that there has been some sort of attack after all, and that Howard really is only trying to protect Michelle and Emmett – or is he? John Goodman is superb, switching from friendly nice guy to imposing, terrifying and downright creepy within seconds.
At its heart, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a psychological thriller, which it more than achieves both through the frustration that stems from the unknown and the claustrophobia of setting the film almost entirely within the walls of the bunker.
As a huge fan of Cloverfield, 10 Cloverfield Lane is more or less everything that I hoped it would be, but an ending that feels like it has been tacked on from an entirely different film is what prevents it from being perfect for me. Although the ending is not bad, per se, it does feel like it had the potential to be so much better and more satisfying than how it plays out. As for just how much of a ‘blood relative’ (in the words of J.J. Abrams) of Cloverfield‘s it is? You’ll have to make your own mind up.