By Thomas Simpson
In the Internet age it’s difficult to keep anything a secret. Projects are announced before they’re pitched with films spoiled before shooting even begins. That’s why it was incredibly refreshing that Bad Robot managed to keep their alluringly titled 10 Cloverfield Lane under wraps until the trailer was released only two months ago. Matt Reeves’ Cloverfield was one of the first movies to use viral marketing effectively with much of the film shrouded in mystery until audiences eventually got to see it. Dan Trachtenberg’s film shares a production company and similar title with the found footage monster hit but how much does it have on common? Judging by the trailer, not a lot. Assessing the final product, the verdict is still out.
Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is on the run from her old life when her car is run off the road. She wakes up in a prison like cellar, patched up but in restraints. Her savior is also her captor in the form of Howard (John Goodman). He informs her that the world has come under attack and that he has saved her life before warning her that she cannot leave the bunker he has built as she will face certain death as the world is under attack from an unknown assailant. Winstead is skeptical, although her new roommate Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) believes Howard and trusts his judgement. Not all as it seems as tensions rise, and what does this have to do with a giant insectoid looking monster anyway?
Trachtenberg has crafted a brilliant apocalyptic thriller that ensnares your worst fears and translates them onto the screen. Michelle is trapped with two strangers, one who seems utterly psychotic, and she isn’t even sure if it’s for her own good. Winstead is wonderful as she juggles her emotions, never losing her fight for survival at any costs.
As good as the finished product is, what’s ultimately distracting is the title. By throwing Cloverfield in there it’s difficult not to be reminded of the massive beast that ripped the head off the Statue of Liberty in 2008. That film continually played in the back of my head as I waited for a link that would lead to it all being neatly wrapped. Then you remember that J.J. Abrams gave us Lost and the deflation kicks in.
The original script was a spec called The Cellar with the title changing name after Bad Robot bought it. There is nothing wrong with aligning it with Cloverfield with one particular scene designed to make you go “oooh” except the cat is already out the bag from the opening credits. The title feels like a cynical marketing plot but there’s the possibility that Cloverfield will be developed into a brand much in the way The Twilight Zone was an anthology series. Time will tell.
Ignore what you think you know and enjoy 10 Cloverfield Lane for what it is. Goodman gives a performance that will be difficult to beat this year as he assists in creating his own monster in the form of Howard. An intense and highly paranoid individual that will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout.
10 Cloverfield Lane is a love letter to Rod Sterling, and a highly entertaining one at that. The third act twist is likely to divide opinion and create much debate, but if you think about it in the bigger picture it might just make sense. Either way, go see it.