Opening 31 Mar 2016
Writing credits: Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, Damien Chazelle
Principal actors: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr., Douglas M. Griffin, Suzanne Cryer
10 Cloverfield Lane is one of those rare movies that keeps the audience guessing until the very end. Therefore, the less one knows about it going in, the more enjoyable the overall experience. However, a brief (and spoiler-free) explanation is that the story follows Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a damaged young woman running away from her life who, after an accident, wakes up to find that her whole world has changed. Trapped in close quarters with two strangers, she struggles to decide whether to trust them and their seemingly crazy beliefs, or to try to escape and regain her freedom.
The interesting thing about 10 Cloverfield Lane is that it is a spiritual successor to the popular found-footage monster film Cloverfield (2008). Soon after its release, Cloverfield became something of a cult classic, with fans discussing theories and looking for connections between it and other works by popular sci-fi producer J.J. Abrams. So it was particularly surprising when suddenly it was announced that there was a sequel, and that it would be released in a mere two months. Despite the enduring popularity of the first film, somehow the production on the sequel had been kept a complete secret. Understandably, this led to quite a bit of hype, particularly when it was announced that it was to be a spiritual sequel rather than a direct one.
10 Cloverfield Lane is a completely different beast from the first film. It is neither found-footage, nor really a monster film in the traditional sense. In fact, it's a very small production (the majority of the film comprises of three actors in a bunker) and the story is far more of a drawing-room psychological thriller than anything else. In many ways, it hearkens back to an earlier style of science fiction/horror which focuses more on deeper themes, à la Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone. The audience is never really sure what is truth and what is fiction until the reveal at the end, and so the events turn into an interesting analysis of human interaction in unusual circumstances. In addition, the script is tight and every action or statement by the characters is likely to have a deeper meaning or consequence later in the film. Where Cloverfield was trying to mimic realness through its shaky camera work and the banal and sometimes stupid actions of its characters, 10 Cloverfield Lane is more a definitive work of fiction, with symbolism and foreshadowing at the fore.
There is much to like here, and it is absolutely refreshing to watch a film which keeps you on your toes. Sure, there are sometimes moments where coincidences seem a bit heavy handed and the ending is a bit of a weak spot, but in general it's a solid and enjoyable film. For those who love psychological thrillers with a dash of science fiction, 10 Cloverfield Lane is an excellent choice. (Rose Finlay)