10 Cloverfield Lane is the follow-up to the 2008 sleeper-hit Cloverfield, which hauled in $170 million dollars at the box office on a $25m budget. With talk of a sequel on-going for years, fans of Cloverfield were no doubt enthusiastic when the follow-up film was announced, but it should be noted that 10 Cloverfield Lane is not a sequel, but more of a distant cousin with only very loose ties to the original. Whereas Cloverfield belongs in the “found footage” genre, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a small-cast ensemble shot in a more conventional way, and on an even smaller budget, estimated at only $5 million. Similar to Cloverfield, the details of the film were kept tightly under wraps until the first trailer was released not long before the film’s general cinematic release.
With Hollywood heavyweight JJ Abrams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) returning as producer, 10 Cloverfield Lane opens with typical young, professional, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who has decided to escape her failed marriage by driving away from it. Not long into her drive, a traffic accident causes her car to fall down an embankment and she loses consciousness. She awakens in an unfamiliar room (not a hospital room) where she is being “cared” for by Howard (John Goodman), who declares that he saved her life and that the world as she knows it has essentially come to some cataclysmic end and everyone outside is dead. With her memory hazy, she feels she is being held hostage and makes some unsuccessful attempts to escape what she quickly realizes is an underground bunker of some sort. She decides to play complicit, and is introduced to Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.), the only other occupant in the bunker, and she and Emmett begin to bond. Michelle begins to try and make sense of a very confusing situation to determine if she is indeed being held hostage by a madman, if Emmett is a friend or an accomplice, if Howard’s story of the destruction of civilisation could possibly be true, and if Howard is lying about the fate of his wife and daughter who he says moved to Chicago.
With the majority of the film taking place in the bunker and with only three characters, 10 Cloverfield Lane depends heavily on the actors and the writing to keep the audience engaged and entertained. Luckily, there isn’t a weak link in the chain to derail that. Thanks to a great script, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a tense, psychological thriller that takes the audience on a nail-biting roller-coaster ride. With answers to questions provided bit by bit, you are kept in a constant state of uncertainty that is unnerving, similar to what lead character Michelle experiences. With each mystery solved comes another, more unsettling question, and by the end, the tension (literally) ignites as Michelle finally discovers the truth, only to find that the truth isn’t what she thought it was. 10 Cloverfield Lane plays a delightful game of cat-and-mouse and takes you through a twisting labyrinth that is fun and entertaining to the end.
Acting performances are excellent all-around, especially veteran actor John Goodman who is fantastic as Howard. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who has a mix of television and film credits is also very good in the lead role as Michelle and will no doubt get a career boost. All-in-all, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a taught thriller that proves that you don’t need a big budget and over-paid, A-list actors to make a good product. Though it is a fairly simple story, it focuses on the basics of good acting and writing to deliver plenty of thrills on a shoestring budget.
::: Renowned For Sound Technical Director and Film Reviewer ::: Robert is an IT geek, movie fan and part-time movie reviewer/editor. Robert also looks after the ‘behind the scenes’ technical elements of Renowned For Sound.