10 Cloverfield Lane is a rare thing. It is a film that has arrived on Irish shores in a shroud of mystery, having only announced itself by way of a small teaser trailer just two months ago.
Directed by: Dan Trachtenberg
Starring: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher, Jr.
Music by: Bear McCreary
Running time: 103 minutes
Almost nobody had known of the film’s existence, which is highly unusual considering major studios such as Marvel have followed the trend of announcing their film slate years in advance. Therefore, 10 Cloverfield Lane deserves applause alone for bucking this trend and keeping the flame of intrigue alive in the era of the big studio system.
Having said that, 10 Cloverfield Lane is by no means a big Hollywood blockbuster. Produced on a shoestring budget of roughly €5 million, the film takes place largely in one claustrophobic bomb shelter and unlike its 2008 ‘spiritual’ predecessor Cloverfield, it is humans rather than any extra-terrestrial beings that pose the largest threat. The film’s tagline - ‘monsters come in many forms’ - has never felt more appropriate than here.
The film centres on Michelle (played here by the superb Mary Elizabeth Winsted), who - in the pre-credits opening scene - we see frantically leaving her Louisiana apartment. It soon becomes clear that this exit is the result of a dispute with her partner (whose voice can be heard in the form of Bradley Cooper), and this opening sequence has clear roots in Hitchcock’s Psycho (who’s influence is felt throughout the film) as we follow Michelle’s car further into the tree-laden wilderness.
However, Michelle’s escape doesn’t last long as an accident derails her car and she is knocked unconscious. From here, the film really kicks in as she awakes to find herself trapped in a tiny concrete room, chained to the wall with an IV drip stuck in her arm. It is soon revealed that the bunker, in which this room is located, belongs to Howard (played brilliantly here by the ever-watchable John Goodman) who claims that during the time of the car accident, the country has been attacked and that he saved Michelle’s life from certain death.
What follows this is 90 minutes of some of the most suspense-filled modern cinema that this reviewer has seen in a long, long time. To write any further on the plot would be doing the film a disservice, and going into this film ‘blind’ – without knowing much about the story – is highly recommended.
However, it must be said that, if like this reviewer you enjoyed the original Cloverfield, this is by no means a direct sequel. Hollywood’s own King Midas - JJ Abrams has himself stated that this film is more of a ‘blood relative’ to that film and it is unclear if the events of Cloverfield even take place within the same universe. And while this film provides the viewer with a totally different film-going experience, there are some similar tropes here. Debut director Dan Trachtenberg has done a very commendable job with here, but it also has Abrams tropes all over it - with homages to his own previous work such as Lost and Super 8 as well as the original film.
VERDICT: The film’s claustrophobic setting and wonderful score make for a tense watch, with a special mention to the film’s three superb leads. They carry the film and give the very real sense of excruciating tension and cabin fever throughout. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a superb psychological popcorn thriller with enough twists and turns to keep the viewer firmly on the edge of their seat. Highly recommend.
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
10 Cloverfield Lane hits Irish cinemas this Friday 18 March