10 Cloverfield Lane

  

In the Summer of 2007 a new film trailer played in front of the first Transformers movie. In it a crowd of people are in a street in lower Manhattan when they are all distracted by a large explosion out in the bay. Looking out to sea it becomes evident that something is flying through the air toward them. Suddenly something large and metallic lands on the ground in front of them. It is the head of The Statue of Liberty. 

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No one knew what film this clip was advertising, there had been no associated publicity and there was no title card. All that came up at the end was a release date. Big films do not generally go into production without great fanfare so the questions surrounding the promo were inevitable. It was a great calling card and it certainly got people talking. The film that followed was Cloverfield, the randomly titled found footage, giant monster, alien invasion picture. That was that, people were interested, they bought the tickets, the film did well, end of story.

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Until two months ago when another trailer for a film no one knew anything about came out. This time it had with a title though. The film was 10 Cloverfield Lane and the release date was imminent. That date was today, 18th March 2016. The name of the film and the similar manner of its promotion got people talking again, mostly online this time, and mostly about how this movie was connected to its apparent predecessor. This question of the link between Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane is not one I am going to answer here but it’s good, it’s really good. It’s the icing on an already impressive cake.

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The plot, as shown in the trailer, concerns a young woman who is in a car crash and wakes up an apparent captive in someone’s underground bunker. The man who brought her in tells her that it isn’t him stopping her leaving though; there has been some kind of attack and the air outside is toxic. He has actually saved her life, or is it, or has he? It is a relatively simple set up, in some ways reminiscent of home invasion thrillers like Pacific Heights and The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, but is executed brilliantly. The film is genuinely tense as the protagonist learns the truth of her situation, then learns the truth of her situation before finally learning the truth of her situation. I may have actually had my hands in front of my face at one point but only briefly because I didn’t want to miss a second of this carefully crafted and excellently performed thriller.

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The cast of three are superb. John Goodman is creepy as the rescuer/jailer. No effort is made to make him seem friendly at any point but still your feelings about him shift just as they would if he’d been all charm at the start and menacing by the end, as is the case with other films of this type. It is a well measured portrayal. You never really trust him but that doesn’t mean he is necessarily bad. John Gallagher Jr., from The Newsroom and Short Term 12, is also strong as the other guy in the bunker. The film undoubtedly belongs to Mary Elizabeth Winstead though.

  

Winstead has been busy in Hollywood for several years now. In our house she is still largely recognised as the villain from Disney’s Sky High but she has also been John McClane’s daughter, Scott Pilgrim’s girlfriend, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter’s wife and Quentin Tarantino’s Deathproof cheerleader. With this role though she has the potential to break away from these daughter/girlfriend/wife/cheerleader roles. Her Michelle is an excellent female character. She is an ordinary woman coping incredibly well in truly extraordinary circumstances. She is brave and resourceful and despite being captive and under significant threat she is never a victim in the typical sense. She definitely has the Ripley Factor. There is a moment where she is dressed in vest and pants in the style of Sandra Bullock in Gravity but it is relevant to the story and she is not objectified. It may not be a grandstanding performance, the like of which we’ve seen over the months of the awards season but it is one of the most positive representations of femininity I have seen in cinema in the last year. It is up there with Charlize Theron in Mad Max.

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To be fair the ending may be a bit much for some, certainly it takes a very different tack in the last twenty minutes. I understand that the story was originally developed without the Cloverfield links (which helped keep it under the radar no doubt) and this part could seem a little tagged on but for me it really worked. All in all 10 Cloverfield Lane is a very good movie that does not depend one bit on its pedigree.

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The film is rated 12A but isn’t really one for the kids. It is a little grizzly in places but nothing to push the certificate up. It is the general tone and building tension that makes it unsuitable for anyone under teenage.

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