“10 Cloverfield Lane” makes you wonder how studio execs come up with film concepts…
SCENE: The Production Office at Bad Robot. JJ Abrams and Bryan Burk are sat in front of a hat full of torn up bits of a Maltin’s Film Guide.
ABRAMS: “I’ve got Bambi”
BURK: “I’ve got Schindler’s List. No, that’s never going to work.”
ABRAMS: “OK, this time I’ve got The Iron Lady”
BURK: “I’ve got 50 Shades of Grey. Hmm… tempting, but not really our target audience. Again I think”
ABRAMS: “OK, I’ve got Room.”
BURK: “Huh.. I’ve got Independence Day. Let’s go again”
Abrams pauses and stares at the Cloverfield poster above his desk.
ABRAMS: “No, wait a minute Bryan.. I have an idea…”
Since much of the joy of “10 Cloverfield Lane” is in not knowing where the story will lead, this review will be spoiler free. By necessity it will therefore also be shorter than usual.
The film certainly grabs the attention from the get go, with some of the most dramatic opening titles ever. Mary Elizabeth Winstead (“A Good Day to Die Hard”) plays Rebecca who after a car crash wakes to find herself in a cell room of an underground bunker, accompanied by unstable and unpredictable disaster-nut Howard (John Goodman) and his builder friend Emmett (John Gallagher Jnr). The bunker is stocked with many year’s worth of provisions, to outstay the natural disaster that Howard claims is raging above them.
Is there really anything happening? And are Rebecca’s fears about Howard’s true intentions towards her founded?
I entered this film with high expectations, and for most of the running time I was not disappointed. The early scenes play out like a claustrophobic and tense three-hander stage play: a bit like the Hateful 8, but without as much gratuitous violence. Whilst there are also similarities here to another of Abram’s properties – series 2 of “Lost” – the set up in Josh Campbell and Matthew Stuecken’s story is both ingenious and innovative. But (as happened in the equally innovative “Looper” from 2012) the clever build-up is wasted on a frankly ridiculous and unnecessary ending. There were many better ways that this story could have been wrapped up, but the writers didn’t choose any of them.
John Goodman – a highly underrated actor – delivers a chilling performance as the troubled Howard. Mary Elizabeth Winstead received mixed reviews in this household: my wife found her acting overly mannered and distracting, whereas I came away with the opinion that she was quite a find, and this could be a breakout movie for her. Time will tell. For fans of the UK TV’s “Pointless”, the film is also a good ‘pointless answer’ for a ‘Bradley Cooper film’: he plays (vocally) Rebecca’s estranged husband Ben.
New to me as a film composer is Bear McCreary, who turns in a highly appropriate and tense score to complement the action, spiced up by some much needed and well-chosen jukebox hits.
The first-time director is Dan Trachtenberg, and he nearly has a classic on his hands. What a shame. I was four and a half to five ‘Fads’ for the first half of the film, but the ending left me annoyed and frustrated at a great opportunity missed.
Fad Rating: FFFf.
(BTW, I don’t normally praise trailers… but this is a good one. Relatively spoiler-free and a true teaser).