10 Cloverfield Lane – 2016
Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, John Gallagher Jr.
Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Words: R. Topham
First thing’s first – do not go to see this movie expecting it to be a sequel to Cloverfield. It’s not. The only comparable factor is the potential of human extinction at the hands of otherworldly monsters seeking destruction. Aside from that, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a far more thrilling watch than its counterpart, with a plot twist Christopher Nolan would be proud of.
As a viewer, you’re on edge from the very beginning. We’re introduced to Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) as she’s packing her belongings to flee her apartment – but why? She leaves what appears to be an engagement ring behind – but why? She takes a bottle of whiskey with her instead – but WHY? To amplify the sense of impending doom, the opening sequence develops into The Shining-esque birds eye view shots of the protagonist’s car driving along a deserted country road, teamed with haunting orchestral music. It’s textbook tension.
The predominant theme is fear and its debilitating effect on sanity. 10 Cloverfield Lane makes excellent use of sound and body language to create and carry the agitated mood rather than semantics: anytime the menacing thud of Howard’s (John Goodman) steps could be heard coming down the stairs, a close up of Howard clenching his fists anxiously when he senses conspiracy early on, and Michelle grasping her sketchbook tightly when talking to Emmett (John Gallagher Jr) about regrets, to name but a few examples.
However, there are valuable lessons to be learned from the inhabitants of 10 Cloverfield Lane, especially in terms of trusting those around you. Howard has been living in fear of a chemical or nuclear attack for so long (whether it be from the Russians or the extra-terrestrials), he’s made it his mission in life to be prepared for such an occurrence, and in his own words, “crazy is building your ark after the flood has already come”.
It is, also, refreshing to see a female stand her ground so ferociously in a sci-fi film. Similarly to slasher/horror film You’re Next, 10 Cloverfield Lane doesn’t necessarily defy the genre conventions as a whole, but the female protagonist who succeeds through logic rather than sexuality is still a relatively underrepresented character. Praise must also be given to John Goodman, who brings brazenness and veteran realism to the role of the neurotic and extremely creepy Howard.
A slightly bizarre and surreal addition to sci-fi that expertly snowballs the drama until the calamitous ending; for his directorial debut, Dan Trachtenberg nailed it.