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article imageReview: ‘10 Cloverfield Lane’ harbours many secrets under the surface Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Mar 12, 2016 in Entertainment
‘10 Cloverfield Lane’ isn’t your typical sequel and it’s the better for it as the tension in a bomb shelter begins to make the external threat seem tolerable.
With the rise of movie franchises, filmgoers have become accustomed to the sequel. In the simplest terms, it’s a new story involving the original characters. More often than not, it’s a continuation or extrapolation of the initial narrative. But that doesn’t mean it has to prescribe to this traditional model. It’s the link between pictures that causes one to be the sequel of another; however, how that link is illustrated or employed is — or should be — flexible. 10 Cloverfield Lane is not a conventional sequel, but it is undoubtedly connected to its predecessor by more than just its name.
When Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wakes up chained to the wall of a concrete room after a car accident, she understandably assumes the worst; and early interactions with her jailer do nothing to alleviate her fears. Eventually he explains he is her generous host, Howard (John Goodman), and they along with Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) are locked in his bomb shelter, which is shielding them from the aftereffects of an unknown attack. In spite of her skepticism, they gradually adapt to an awkward but bearable group dynamic. Their accommodations are fully stocked and relatively comfortable, complete with entertainment and breathable air. But Howard’s erratic behaviour and frightening temper keep his guests on edge — and seeking a means of escape.
Based on the description, it’s apparent this film has little in common with its predecessor — which may be one of the reasons its production was kept secret. Yet first-time feature director Dan Trachtenberg proves competent in representing the film’s independence and connection. Shot traditionally rather than presented in the same found-footage format, the majority of the action is confined to the bunker. Although it’s rather spacious, the set options are still limited to the makeshift home. This is the first time we’re meeting these characters and the nature of the strike that is restricting them to the underground refuge remains uncertain. However, it eventually becomes clear this movie is occurring in the same universe as the original.
Michelle’s accident occurs shortly after the film’s opening. As her car violently rolls, the audience is trapped inside the crushing metal with her thanks to the first-person P.O.V. camera. This scene marks the start of the narrative’s rising tension; though there is the occasional humorous break. Taking the shape of a psychological thriller rather than a monster movie, Howard is both their saviour and central threat. While Emmett was willing to accept his host’s eccentricities, Michelle cannot ignore her gut feeling that something is very wrong and will likely only get worse. As the tagline reveals, “Monsters come in many forms.”
Goodman is outstanding as the unbalanced conspiracy theorist. He can deliver even the most disturbing line with utter calmness, which generally makes it much scarier. In addition, he’s able to switch from cool and composed to angry and aggressive instantaneously and then back again with such ease and authenticity. Gallagher Jr. plays Howard’s polar opposite, intent on keeping the peace as much as possible even if that means regularly bowing to the alpha male’s will. Winstead’s experience with horror and action were excellent preparation for this picture. She convincingly depicts Michelle’s fear and ingenuity, allowing the audience to become attached to her character and become invested in her journey.
Instead of relying on jump scares, the filmmakers allow the terror to build until it reaches a boiling point — then they throw one more explosive into the mix.
Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Starring: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr.
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