Movie Review | 10 Cloverfield Lane (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Stuart Dalgleish 27.03.2016

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10 Cloverfield Lane (UK Rating: 12A)

Some may recall Drew Goddard and J. J. Abrams' 2008 'found footage' movie, Cloverfield, where a giant monster attacks New York City, causing panic for six residents who were in the middle of having a party. Chaos ensued, wobbly hand-cam footage antics were abound and thrills were had from the viewers point of view. Well, now it's back, except not quite in the bog-standard sequel form that some may have been expecting. 10 Cloverfield Lane has just released in cinemas across the UK, and Lights, Camera, Action! reveals whether it's a sure-fire winner or not.

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The story of 10 Cloverfield Lane is quite an intimate one, focusing on a woman and two men bunkered together in an underground shelter. Having been run off the road, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) awakens to find her leg strapped up in a brace and one arm chained to a pipe. Panic ensues. For viewers, images of Saw or Misery immediately spring to mind. It all looks a bit too familiar. She doesn't know what's going on or who to trust. After all, her captor, Howard (a very burly-looking John Goodman, far, far away from his jovial days in TV series, Rosanne, or even The Flintstones Movie, for that matter!), barely says a word, instead acting extremely menacing to start with. After an audacious, but failed, escape attempt, she is introduced to Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.), another near-victim of the apocalypse that Howard insists has occurred outside of the bunker. Everyone must stay within the confines of his protective lair, for fear of getting infected, becoming zombie-like or even dying. Now there are shades of The Walking Dead or 28 Days Later, right?

Trapped in this strange place, it is clear that Michelle is torn between what to believe - is Howard just a recluse that prepared for the end of the world in advance ("Crazy is building your ark after the flood has already come" ), or is he fabricating everything, alluding to him being a crazed psychopath that has simply kidnapped both her and the broken-armed Emmett…or are both men actually in on the act? One has a short temper, whilst the other is calm, charming and caring. Is this good cop, bad cop? What to believe? 10 Cloverfield Lane is no predictable affair, by any means, keeping those watching guessing by introducing all manner of twists and turns, as well as giving off those feelings of other movies and TV shows.

Howard is almost manic at times, with Goodman playing the role of gentle-giant-quickly-becoming-a-raging-beast perfectly, and Winstead superbly taking the charge of a selfish young woman, trusting only in herself and ready to look after nobody other than number one. Has the end of the world arrived, though? That is the question that rears its head so often, but again, Dan Trachtenberg's expert direction throws up question after question, time and time again, to the point of it all becoming rather breathtaking.

Howard displays a need to control what goes on in the shelter, maintaining that it's his bunker and they are his guests that must abide by his rules. Just as the shaky relationship starts to plateau and almost become workable, though, the situation deteriorates as Emmett and Michelle start find holes in their host's story about the outside world and his now-absent family. Michelle never completely trusts him, as he almost force-feeds her information about how it isn't safe outside of the bunker…and so the second-guessing continues.

10 Cloverfield Lane's biggest strength comes from just how claustrophobic the whole setting is. Why was Michelle trapped in what looked like a foreboding prison cell, yet the rest of the underground shelter seems so homely? Who was it that ran her off the road in the first place? The story doesn't stray far outside of the bunker, adding to the suspense. However, the enclosed space is also where the biggest weakness lies, since there are many long, drawn out sequences that are clearly attempts at raising the tension levels, yet ultimately fall flat, becoming "What's the point?" moments, dragging on until the next major twist hits home. The cast plays its part as well as can be expected, given the limited nature of the setting, and the high points are indeed very high, which makes it all the more disappointing when the lulls arrive once more…and then all hell lets loose for the - totally flummoxing - finale.

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Rated 6 out of 10


10 Cloverfield Lane is a mystery thriller that will have that age-old Marmite effect on viewers. The story is well put together, with some very solid acting, whilst the claustrophobic feeling of the movie helps up the ante in the tension stakes. However, this is also where its weaknesses start to show, with some pacing issues present. Sections that were seemingly included to build the backstory and increase the tension levels, sometimes come across instead as being slow, filler moments that merely drag on with no purpose until the next twist arrives. It has its ups and downs, followed by a totally crazy ending…yet, ultimately, lacks the same draw as its pseudo-predecessor. For those wondering if there are indeed links to the original Cloverfield, forget about it, since all along the team has said that it wanted to make a series without doing a direct sequel, and the only tenuous link is the alien invasion plot line. Separating the two, though, helps give this release the unique identity it needs to avoid unfair comparisons.

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