10 Cloverfield Lane is a dark and uncomfortable film that perfectly demonstrates how awful life trapped in a bunker with strangers would be – and I thought it was fantastic.
The film is extremely difficult to talk about without potentially spoiling it, so I’m going to try and keep the synopsis brief.
A young woman, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) finds herself held against her will in the fallout shelter of a paranoid ‘doomsday prepper’, Howard (John Goodman), who tells her that the world above has been completely destroyed and she’d best get used to her life in the bunker.
Is he telling the truth? Or is something far more sinister than the apocalypse happening?
It was a tense thriller that kept me gripped throughout, delivering shocks and scares without relying on the usual clichés and tropes.
The performances were all tremendous and, more importantly, believable, while the story had echoes of last years Room with a wonderful genre shift and, as agonising as the film was, I didn’t want it to end.
John Goodman ‘s performance of the paranoid Howard is easily the highlight and he gives an incredibly nuanced performance.
So often when an actor is told to play ‘crazy’, they take it too far and overplay the ‘madness’ going from simply unstable to gibbering lunatic, but Goodman simply plays Howard as unbalanced, waking the line between unrestrained fury and genuine concern for Michelle.
Through his skill as an actor he manages to create tension in every scene he’s in, simply with his presence, because you never know what he’s going to do – will he violently overreact to a simple joke or just tell a story about his life before the bunker?
Of course, no film is without its flaws and Lane is no exception. Irritatingly, I can’t really explain it without spoiling the film, but I will say that after all the hard work that’s put into building tension the last act is going to be divisive for some.
Personally I loved it, but this is a genre that I adore. Conversely, the couple sat next to me in the theatre thought it was the stupidest ending ever, and they made their dissatisfaction known by tutting, sighing and gesticulating wildly at the screen.
I can also see people being irritated by the filmmakers’ decision to leave a lot of questions unanswered, while I personally saw it as the film having a healthy respect for its audience, trusting us to be smart enough to not need to be spoon-fed answers.
However, I understand that’s me projecting, because I liked the film, and it definitely confused some people in my screening who believed these were ‘plot holes’.
Despite those problems though, I thought the film was great, a step above a number of ‘bigger productions’. It told a coherent and well paced story that reminded me that the cinema can be more than just CGI characters bashing the shit out of each other.
Go and see this film if you can.