It’s best to start off this review as honest as possible. If you’re expecting a fully-fledged sequel or even a prequel to Matt Reeves’ brilliant monster horror, Cloverfield in 10 Cloverfield Lane, you’ll be very disappointed.
But, if you’re expecting a superbly written, well-acted and claustrophobic thriller, then this is definitely the film for you. Dan Trachtenberg, who makes his directorial debut with this feature, has crafted a taut film that has no real connection with the 2008 hit. So is it as good?
10 Cloverfield Lane follows Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) as she embarks on a new chapter in her life after a break-up. Unfortunately, a car crash leaves her seriously injured and unconscious. After waking up in an underground bunker, she meets her saviour in Howard (John Goodman), and as the story progresses, Michelle and fellow resident Emmett, try to make a bid for freedom.
The performances by the cast of three are terrific with Winstead coming on leaps and bounds since her role in Final Destination 3 and John Goodman is absolutely incredible. Cloverfield utilised its monster very well, but Goodman is more than a match with a simple shaking of his fists – his booming voice and burly frame mean he was a perfect casting choice and a human as psychotic as Howard is infinitely more terrifying to me than any monster.
It’s all very Hitchcockian, claustrophobic and exceptionally tense. Director Dan Trachtenberg has a real eye for the smaller details and the underground bunker setting is the perfect location to craft this kind of film. The use of jagged camera angles and low shots help aid the enclosed feeling and you can’t help but become panicked with Michelle, as she desperately tries to figure out a way to freedom.
After the bloated mess of London Has Fallen and the overlong Allegiant, it’s nice to see a film that doesn’t dwell more than it needs to. At 103 minutes, 10 Cloverfield Lane is relatively short and all the better for it. Despite only having three characters and being confined to a few small rooms for the majority of the running time, it never drags or becomes dull.
Unfortunately, the final third unravels a little of this good work, coming across like the ending to a completely different film; but Trachtenberg’s ideas and reasoning behind the finale are clear throughout, despite the lack of connection to the two acts that preceded it.
Overall, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a smart and well-thought out thriller that is related to Cloverfield in name only. That’s no bad thing, as the film we are left with is one of the best directorial debuts in years, even though its muddled ending leaves somewhat of a sour taste.