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Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane – “An exhilarating cinematic treat”

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*Disclaimer: any spoilers in this review are minor and happen in the first 10-15 minutes*

10 Cloverfield Lane opens with Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) running away from her life. She’s packing up her things, getting in her car and just leaving. She doesn’t get very far. After a nasty car accident, she wakes up in a bunker. She has no clue where she is and is told by her apparent captor, Howard (John Goodman), that she is safe – because he saved her life. Though, the handcuffs keeping her chained to the wall don’t exactly fill her with confidence. There is also one other person down there with them, Howard’s neighbour, Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) and she’s not entirely sure if he’s down there out of choice.

What follows is a story packed with tension and second guessing. Like Michelle, you’re never entirely sure whether what you’re being told is the truth, an all-out lie, or something somewhere in between the two. Is it a bluff? A double-bluff? A triple-bluff? There’s no way of knowing. And, like Michelle, this uncertainty is what keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout.

It’s a real ask to make a film compelling and engaging throughout when there are so few actual cast members to tell the story but, thanks to the phenomenal central performances and the brilliantly written script, there is never a moment to feel bored or disinterested. There is a constant need to know both what is really going on above ground and what is going to happen next below it – and that need never lets up.

Director Dan Trachtenberg guides his actors with absolute class – which is even more surprising given that this is his first foray into feature film. He knows when to get in unbearably close and when to take a step back and just let the story unfold. Some of the scariest, most unsettling scenes happen when all three are just talking. No great movement, volume or spectacle is needed when the dialogue is this sharp and the pacing this on point. That said, one of the greatest strengths of the film is the subtle but vital use of humour in amidst all this suspense and fear. When things get a little too intense, there is just a line or two to make you smile and remember to breathe – and then you’re right back there with the tension.

10 Cloverfield Lane is delightfully tense and claustrophobic and makes for superb, edge-of-the-seat viewing. The writing is clever and the pacing throughout is flawless, making sure that there is never a lull in the action. This, mixed together with captivating performances and perfectly placed moments of humour, results in an exhilarating cinematic treat for the senses!

5-out-of-5

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