10 Cloverfield Lane – Review (****)

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10 Cloverfield Lane

10 Cloverfield Lane is one of the best-marketed movies in recent memory, because in addition to giving little away, Paramount also played fair with audiences; rather than focus on the movie’s inevitable monster shenanigans which comprise just a small piece of the puzzle, they rightly focused on the character-driven drama to ensure viewers wouldn’t be disappointed.

Shot in secret under the title Valencia, this spin-off from 2008’s riveting found footage monster movie Cloverfield sees Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) involved in a car accident and waking up in an underground bunker, where her saviour, an eccentric man named Howard (John Goodman), informs her that a chemical attack has made above ground uninhabitable. As the pair eke out a reluctant existence alongside another survivor, Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.), however, it appears that Howard’s hospitality is not exactly as welcoming as one might have hoped.

Indeed, if you’re hoping for a full-throttle sequel to Cloverfield – which you absolutely shouldn’t be anyway – this may not be the film for you, but in his directorial debut, Dan Trachtenberg nevertheless fashions a worthy, expectation-defying follow-up, focused intently on the psychology of the trio, and the uncertainty regarding what exactly has taken place in the outside world.

It’s Trachtenberg’s slick, crisp direction, the marvelous sound design and three fine performances that really sell this one; Winstead provides further proof that she’s deserving of more meaty leading roles, though it’s Goodman who runs away with the film, delivering a roaring, volcanic performance that’s surely among his very best. Gallagher may be less-known to most audiences, but he stands toe-to-toe with the pair just fine.

To say much more than this will spoil a movie that’s best viewed with the least knowledge possible; all you need to know is that it’s a taut psycho-thriller that also delivers on the promises of a movie with the word “Cloverfield” in its title. Though you can certainly argue that the movie’s title is nothing more than a marketing calculation – after all, the original script was totally standalone – 10 Cloverfield Lane still expands the mythos of this now-franchise in a satisfying and intriguing way. Above all else it suggests that there’s brilliant potential here for Cloverfield to become an anthology series of loosely-linked thrillers of all shapes and sizes.

****

10 Cloverfield Lane is in cinemas now

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