10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Writers: Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, Damien Chazelle
Starring: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr
Drenched in atmosphere, and with a fluidly shifting tone, 10 Cloverfield Lane delivers a lot with just a little.
10 Cloverfield Lane is a wonderfully atmospheric psychological thriller which keeps you guessing until its final moments. After crashing her car, Michelle (Winstead) finds herself in a doomsday bunker built by Howard (Goodman), who unconvincingly explains that there has been an ‘attack’ and that the outside air is contaminated. Michelle takes this with an understandable amount of suspicion, as will the viewer. 10 Cloverfield Lane throws you straight into an environment immediately thick with mistrust and deception. As if it's giving up before it begins, the film makes no attempt to outsmart the viewer, and, as is the case with many other psychological thrillers, doesn’t try to lead you into a false sense of security.
Or does it? 10 Cloverfield Lane, it turns out, is playing the long game. The brilliance of this film is that it lets you feel like you know what is going on, before completely shifting the tone and throwing you off track. The film is dizzying and it tries its hardest to shake you off in downright defiance to be guessable. It is quite a ride, and provides plenty of shocks along the way.
Goodman submits an utterly astounding performance as Howard, the ‘good Samaritan’ who provides shelter for his two ‘guests’. Goodman is the driving force in every scene he is in, effortlessly altering the tone right before the viewers eyes. This is not a typical role for Goodman, appearing more regularly in the credits of comedies, but here he demonstrates a clear aptitude for thrillers. His co-stars are equally convincing in their roles; Winstead is brilliant as the cautious yet resourceful Michelle, while Gallagher Jr’s easy-going Emmett is a welcome source of comic relief, while also bringing themes of selflessness and regret to the table as well. For a main cast of three, this trio do a tremendous job of holding an audience.
Its 12 certification does strangle the film slightly, and a lot more could be done with a little more freedom, particularly with a gruesome injury towards the film's end - fans of gore will feel cheated. Similarly, its certification also accounts for the film’s relatively light tone, compared to other abduction style films which are often a lot more claustrophobic and insidious. 10 Cloverfield Lane doesn’t possess that trapped sensation which makes such films so unsettling, an element which may have given the film's intensity a boost. It works with its current certification, but given a slightly higher rating this film could have easily evolved into a fantastic horror flick.
It has a marmite ending, but regardless of whether you love it or hate you will leave the film surprised. 10 Cloverfield Lane becomes a very different film in its final 15 minutes, so much so that the hour and a half prior to it seems to dissolve away, shadowed by the events at its climax. It somewhat subtracts from the atmosphere so carefully cultivated up to that point, but if the film’s intention is to shock right to the end, it gets full marks.
In one line: A brilliant cast and skillful direction has crafted this atmospheric thriller, which twists and turns along the way, but has a daring conclusion which may divide your household.