It’s always nice to get a sequel to a movie you really enjoyed, but getting one that even exceeds your own expectations? That makes for a very sweet event. “10 Cloverfield Lane” is one such example that even in the busy world of sequels, manages to root a new ground of its own.
This may be connected to the hugely successful “Cloverfirld”, but rather than be a direct sequel, this does thing a little different. We see the lead character Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead” as she runs out of her marriage, only to crash her car and lose consciousness. She awakens in a strange underground room where a man by the name of Howard (John Goodman) tells her that there has been an attack outside, and the air has been contaminated. There is no chance that any survivors could have lived through it, and they must remain in his fallout bunker until the air is safe enough to breathe outside. What follows is a tense drama where the audience has to decide where the truth lies, or if the reality of what has happened goes beyond what any could have imagined.
What makes this so damm interesting right out of the gate, is that it ties into the Cloverfield world in a very secondary manner. The scope from the previous events in New York City have been drawn in significantly, to the point where the cast focuses on just three characters and a few small rooms. The epic scale is gone, and what we are given instead is an enclosed tension piece that is almost trying to suffocate you.
We get Michelle’s side where she is correctly suspicious and fearful of the entire set up, and is fighting to believe what she is hearing is not true. Whereas Howard is being both authoritative and helping, only wanting to see that they all survive in what he sees as a worldwide attack. But there is definitely an undertone to him which he is hiding and constantly keeps the flames of suspicion alight. The third character of Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) is someone who kind of lies in the middle – trusting of Howard, but open to the thoughts and ideas of Michelle. For us as the audience, it makes for an utterly fascinating story that is boiling within the confines of the tiny bunker.
The beauty lies within the little details scattered right through the whole running time. The opening which has next to no dialogue, and instead uses visual cues and holding points to convey information to the viewer. The superb camera placement that within such small areas, always keeps you in focus of the items which matter. And even the 80’s references which blend into the modern setting in a way that doesn’t feel obtrusive or unnecessary. There’s a great attention to detail that has it play out almost like a stage performance – the props and reference points are as important as the characters on screen.
And the chosen actors to take on the characters were chosen so well. Mary Elizabeth Winstead was the perfect casting choice. So much of what happens relies on how we see everything through her eyes, and she really puts in the work to achieve that. Her responses to situations as well as the subtle changes in her visual emotions are all that we need to follow along and immerse into the scenes. John Goodman brings in his style that I always enjoy seeing from him – keeping the audience guessing. He can so easily switch from being calm and friendly, to being really threatening in an instant. I have to say that this is his best performance in several years.
As for the whole mystery of the film and how it plays out, they keep you wondering and always trying to predict where it will go. Sure, you can guess quite easily how it will wrap up, but the journey there is the fascinating piece. It twists and writhes about as questions get answered, tensions build, something snaps, new questions rise up, and the process begins once again. A lot of the thanks for this is down to the script which is super-solid, a marvel in how simple it all runs along, while including so much lovely detail and depth. Even the small number of notes in the theme are spot-on.
What what really, really makes everything click, is the fact that regardless of you having seen Cloverfiend before or not, you will still follow this no problem. And if you have, you will get even more entertainment as you project the events from that into this feature. It works just as effectively as a stand-alone piece, but still manages to retain relevance to the material which it takes inspiration from. I have to stand up and applaud that, it is an astonishing achievement.
“10 Cloverfiend Lane” takes a vastly different approach to a follow-up film, by closing in rather than expanding the world they took a risk that paid off massively. Whilst bringing together some brilliant creators as well as that script and the perfect choice of actors for the extremely small cast size. It is tense, engaging, has an excellent three-act structure, and even pulls in the nice style of “dark but visible enough to see” CG. Going into this, I was not expecting it to be one of the shining releases from 2016 so far, but it really is. An original story running ideas from an original movie, that hits every tone right.
I can’t even believe that I’m giving this rating…….
Thanks for reading!