10 Cloverfield Lane

(M) Starring John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead

First-time director Dan Trachtenberg was given the latest movie from JJ Abrams’ production company, Bad Robot. Abrams is one of the most powerful film-makers in the world, having directed the most recent Star Wars and Star Trek films. He also masterminded the successful 2008 monster movie Cloverfield … which 10 Cloverfield Lane is kinda linked to.

With this new suspense thriller, Trachtenberg seems to be honouring Alfred Hitchcock or, at least, M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense). 10 Cloverfield Lane tells the tale of Michelle(Mary Elizabeth Winstead)a young American woman who, after an argument with her boyfriend, is involved in something sudden, shocking and life-threatening. She wakes up in a cinder-block cell and realises she is not in a hospital. Instead, she is being held captive. Her captor is Howard (John Goodman)a man who claims he saved her life AND that the USA has been the victim of an attack from an unknown enemy. He explains that they must remain in the underground bunker he has placed them in, until the air above ground is cleared of contamination. Also in this subterranean shelter with senior conspiracy theorist Howard is Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), the young man who helped build the underground structure. In this bizarre scenario, Emmett and Michelle must determine if Howard’s reality is true — or if it all comes from the imagination of a delusional survivalist.

The biggest challenge for this review is to not give away the key plot points that make 10 Cloverfield Lanesuch an entertaining suspense thriller. Only really giving a nod to Cloverfield in its title and some genre elements, Trachtenberg delivers a film that stands on its own among other great suspense directors. He takes from the playbook of thriller masters and adds his own touch to a well-worn style of filming. The young director provides the needed tension through effective camera-work, a well-timed script and capitalising on a master acting class from John Goodman.

Reminiscent of Kathy Bates’ Oscar winning performance in Misery (1990), Goodman walks that fine line between captor and saviour. His delivery provides the needed precision to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. Winstead and Gallagher bring innocence and survival instincts, to be convincing foils to Goodman’s paranoid character. Through this talented thespian trifecta, the foot remains on the pedal of tension and drives this film through until its twisted conclusion.

Keeping the majority of the film within the confines of a bunker built under Howard’s rural home adds to the combustible anxiety. Coupled with that, you have an engaging script that allows for enough back story and vital clues to pull viewers into the claustrophobic confines. Each step along the journey makes Howard’s story plausible but, because of his disturbing manner, there is always doubt about his potentially sinister intentions.

An enigmatic marketing plan, along with keeping the storyline under tight secrecy, adds to the appeal of watching 10 Cloverfield Lane. Trachtenberg brings a freshness to this genre with the inclusion of unique soundtrack choices, and subtle and well-timed nuances of each character make it worth seeing in the cinema.

Playing on the fears of many about future events, the production deftly manipulates emotions and delivers a compelling suspense thriller.

What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?

 How will the world come to an endThat is the question of the ages. Books, film and religions all try to answer this query that plagues everyone at some point in their life. It can bring out fear in much of the population, and conspiracy theorists who merely have to provide plausible answers to cause people to continue to ask the question. What does the Bible have to say about it all? The book of Revelation can be a confusing and misunderstood book, but it is worth engaging with others on this informative text for a clearer answer of the end of the world as we know it.

  1. Can we find truth in this world? (John 14:6, 1 Corinthians 13:4-6)
  2. Can we ever find justice? (Proverbs 21:15, Romans 12:19)
  3. How can get we peace about the end of the world? (Revelation, The Gospel of Luke)

Russell Matthews

Russell loves film and enjoys engaging in discussions about the latest cinema offerings and then connecting this with the Gospel. He has worked for City Bible Forum for over 10 years, is a reviewer for Insights Magazine and Entertainment Fuse and has a blog called Russelling Reviews. He moderates events for Reel Dialogue which connect the film industry with the general public.