10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

clov12016.59: 10 Cloverfield Lane (Amazon VOD)

10 Cloverfield Lane is a very effective thriller, with a taut script and an excellent cast. As its title suggests, it is loosely connected to the original monster movie Cloverfield (just how loosely I won’t go into). Thankfully however this film drops the found-footage stuff and is a wholly more traditional film, and much the better for it.

It also boasts an absolutely wonderful score by Bear McCreary. There is a lot of the feeling of The Twilight Zone watching this film, and much of it stems from McCreary’s Herrmann-esque, evocative score. It immediately places us into a particular sense of mood and place, of a 1950s, 1960s tonal quality, quite non-contemporary. It’s so refreshing to watch a modern film that isn’t saddled with a Hans Zimmer-like score, and it is interesting that this is from McCreary, one of the most exciting talents in television scoring over the past ten years (Battlestar Galactica, Da Vinci’s Demons, The Walking Dead, Outlander etc.).

So anyway, this review is old-hat for many since it’s months since the films theatrical release, so I guess spoilers are ok. Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is literally driving away from some unspecified relationship woes when she is run of the road in an accident. She awakens in a strange, spartan room – an IV attached to her arm and a brace on her knee that is, alarmingly, chained to the wall. She’s greeted by her captor, a man named Howard (John Goodman), who claims he’s saved her life. He tells her there has been an apocalyptic event, and that he has brought her to his survival bunker. Immediately there is something ‘off’ about Howard. He describes the event on the surface as an attack; maybe by the Russians, but casually also suggesting it was maybe by the Martians. At any rate, the surface has been rendered uninhabitable, and Howard, MIchelle and his other guest, Emmett (John Gallagher) have no choice but to wait it out – maybe a year or two.

As time passes, Michelle begins to doubt Howard’s version of events, but various things seem to corroborate it- Emmett himself witnessed the beginning of the attack and fought for entry to the shelter, and when Michelle gets a glimpse of the outside world she sees a bloodied, poisoned woman desperately trying to gain entrance herself. Howard is evidently unhinged and his story is crazy, but this is afterall a Cloverfield movie- should Michelle really risk everything to get outside and what will she find if she gets out there?

clov2Winstead is terrific in this. She really deserves better and more substantial roles in future genre films- she’s vulnerable but strong too, with a great physicality to her role that really brings to mind Weaver’s Ripley in Alien. Winstead is that good (but then again, I also thought she was the best thing in that The Thing prequel some years back). Goodman is naturally as dependable as ever, and it’s nice to see some of that old disarming charm of his (remember Always?) with the hints of deranged darkness he brings to his role here.

By the time the film ends and (most) of its secrets revealed in a final twenty-minute flourish, I was left with a desire to see more of these Cloverfield films. They could become a great little franchise of Twilight Zone-like stories. That does however come with one caveat- yet again we see here a JJ Abrams project that really harkens back to older originals than really doing something new and unique. He did it with Super 8, Star Trek, The Force Awakens and here The Twilight Zone- he seems adept at reinventing or reinterpreting old material or classic pieces of mainstream culture for new audiences (the Herrmann-like score by McCreary is surely no accident here, and the claustrophobic setting of the shelter has all the hallmarks of The Twilights Zone‘s adept use of working within its limited television budgets) but where is the really new stuff? Is there really nothing new under the Bad Robot sun?




5 thoughts on “10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

  1. Tom

    Maybe not, but when homages are done as well as this is I myself don’t have much of an issue with it. Glad to see you enjoyed 10 Cloverfield Lane. I found it to be a nice surprise and a great start to what I was so hoping would be a great year in film. Then the next 5 months happened…..

  2. Thanks, yeah it didn’t turn out so great did it for movies this year. Funnily enough, is it any accident that this film came out without all the fanfare associated with the tentpole summer releases? And its smaller, without huge effects sequences (well… almost…) or the grand spectacle apparently demanded by audiences. It’s dramatic, with acting, with a plot… then BvS and all the rest threw all that out the window. Its getting so the summer is becoming a time to actively AVOID movies.

  3. I rather liked Cloverfield and this seems to have been generally well received, so I’m very much intending to get round to it… but haven’t, so I stopped reading at “I guess spoilers are ok”!

    It does cause a thought to flitter across my mind, though: is J.J. Abrams something-and-nothing as a director, but actually very reliable when he’s only a producer? Not sure if there’s enough evidence to support that assertion, but maybe.

  4. Matthew McKinnon

    So… this was a standalone film originally, apparently, but it got yoked with the Cloverfield thing as a marketing tag, more or less?

    With that in mind, and given how secretive Bad Robot are generally, is this not a bit counterproductive? I mean, as soon as I knew the premise of this, I automatically knew there’d be invading monsters. So the ending was blown. As will that of any successive Cloverfield films.

    I though the ending was a bit shit, really: Winstead suddenly morphs into an action-heroine pulling off Tom-Cruise-in-War of the Worlds moves with explosives, and then running off to join the resistance, all in the space of ten minutes? Hmmm.

    I think your criticism of this as derivative, and part of the ongoing wave of Retromania is slightly off. The Twilight Zone did pretty much define the twist-ending thriller, but I’m not sure everything that follows in it wake is in its thrall. It’s like saying every gangster movie owes a debt to The Godfather.

    That said, at least you know where you stand with Bad Robot: it will be second-hand but very entertaining.

    Anyway, I quite liked this, but I wish I had waited for it to hit Netflix rather than paying for a rental.

    I liked the soundtrack too! It put me in mind of Psycho, and I’m sure that was intentional: Marion Crane running away from her life.

  5. Finally watched this. It was good… until the last 10 minutes happened. Kinda ruined it for me. I’ll have to mull on how much.

    The Blu-ray has a 7-minute featurette specifically about the score, in which McCreary talks about the unusual instruments he used and why, explaining some of his thought process behind it all. It’s brief but quite interesting. Not sure it’s much help me pointing it out though, because I can’t find it online anywhere and it’s not exactly worth buying the disc for one short extra!

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