Plain, Simple Tom reviews . . . “10 Cloverfield Lane” (2016)

Another well received film of yesteryear, 10 Cloverfield Lane was one of those films that I had heard some good things about (I even blindly added John Goodman to my “Best Performances of 2016” list, based solely on the general buzz I was getting from fellow bloggers) but I decided to leave it, mainly because I hadn’t seen Cloverfield (still haven’t) and didn’t want to see its “blood relative”, as J.J. Abrams has put it, without seeing that one first. But anyway, I figured the time had come to finally watch it.

While running away from a souring relationship, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) gets into a car accident and regains consciousness in an underground bunker, put together by Howard (John Goodman), who informs Michelle that there has been a serious external attack, executed by parties unknown, that has left the air unbreathable and the outside world too dangerous. With an unstable temperament, he claims that he is keeping her safe but Michelle soon suspects that he may not be telling the truth and, with the help of fellow “prisoner” Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), she attempts to find out what is really happening and to possibly escape outside to safety.

First of all, the opening of the movie is especially effective; there is very little dialogue, straight off the bat encouraging a sense of intrigue and in no time at all, we are hooked on the mystery and eager to see the story begin. The opening is also particularly noteworthy because it introduces Bear McCreary’s chilling, ominous score. McCreary, perhaps most well known for his work on Battlestar Galactica, gives the film a perfectly fitting accompaniment and it is very reminiscent of the work of Bernard Herrmann (one of my favourite film composers), immediately lending the film a certain Hitchcockian atmosphere – the opening shots of Michelle driving her car gets us thinking of Psycho‘s Marion Crane. So the music of 10 Cloverfield Lane is excellent and Bear McCreary deserves a gold medal for his efforts!

The film’s thriller atmosphere is excellent and everything is remarkably directed, staged and edited. Seemingly every line of dialogue and plot development constantly keeps us guessing and the script is consistently taut, interesting and tense. There are a few plot strands that aren’t neatly resolved but maybe that’s the point: that ultimately, the audience has to filter out what’s important and piece things together themselves. The very last scene is also noteworthy; when Michelle is faced with the choice of whether to run or fight, the seemingly irrelevant story that she told Emmett earlier on proves to be essential and gives her character some proper development and change. Those final scenes are also gorgeous to look at and are impressively designed.

There are only three main characters in the film and this is ideal for a film like this. The small cast is excellent; John Goodman in particular is fantastic, effectively appearing unhinged, dangerous and scary at times, while actually seeming quite affable, protective and fatherly in other scenes. In addition, Mary Elizabeth Winstead (going all Die Hard as she goes through the whole film barefoot and crawls through vents just like her Die Hard 4 dad John McClane!) is equally as good and is a strong, confident lead who we effortlessly support. John Gallagher Jr. does well as a supportive secondary character but he’s a bit of a third wheel as Goodman and Winstead dominate proceedings.

So yeah, I’m glad that I finally got around to watching this, I’ve absolutely no regrets in adding John Goodman to my “Best Performances of 2016” list, I shall now have to actually see Cloverfield and will be on the lookout for God Particle when it arrives in cinemas!


A thrilling, tense, exciting and consistently fascinating film with an amazing score and powerful performances from its small cast.

★ ★ ★ ★

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