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10 Cloverfield Lane Movie Review (Spoiler Free)

Prepare for a genius and nerve-wrecking game of cat and mouse, with shining performances by John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead!

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Genre: Horror/Mystery/Thriller

Directors: Dan Trachtenberg

Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr. & John Goodman.

Run Time: 103 min.

US Release: 11 March 2016

UK Release: 18 March 2016

German Release: 31 March 2016

Let me warn you straight away! This movie is best experienced going into the theatres without expectations and with the least amount of knowledge about the story, so if you did not see 10 Cloverfield Lane watch it first and then read my review. Also, don’t expect it to be a direct sequel or spin-off because it will otherwise disappoint you - You have been warned. Nevertheless, I will try and keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, which is really hard because the film was created in secret. So let’s get on with it!

10 Cloverfield Lane is an extremely tense and claustrophobic mystery-thriller that does not try to succeed its forerunner by being a bigger product, but instead delivers a smaller picture that is qualitatively better than its predecessor. It is also Dan Trachtenberg’s debut feature film and I was surprised by what this director accomplished, in terms of suspense and psychological-terror.

Michelle (Winstead) wakes up in an underground bunker, after having been in a horrible car crash, with her broken leg chained to a wall. Shortly after her awakening, Howard (Goodman) makes an entry and explains to her that there is no going back to the outside because there has been an attack and the air is now lethal. Michelle quickly makes the acquaintance of the other bomb shelter resident Emmett (Gallagher), who confirms to a specific point what Howard said about the outside world. But can Howard be trusted and what are his real motives? Is he simply delusional? You’ll have to figure that out by yourself!

As soon as the opening scene began, I obtained vibes of Hitchcock’s Psycho and it didn’t end there. This movie pays homage to older thrillers such as Misery, as well as paying tribute to H. G. Well’s sci-fi literature work. It is a skilfully written piece of cinematic art that has a constant build-up in tension, as the viewer watches Michelle trying to figure out if her “saviour” Howard is serious about his rants of the end of the world, or if the guy is just batshit crazy. This leads me to my next point; Trachtenberg sets up a beautiful cat-and-mouse game, full of misdirection, that keeps not only the audience guessing what will happen next but also the female protagonist they follow.

Sadly, the revelation in the third act is somewhat of a letdown for me; not because it did not fit per se, as there are several hints towards what really might be going on, but because it feels a little too sudden and out of place. Until the third act, this film is very grounded and realistic. The things that are depicted on the big screen could have been taken from police file records of similar cases but as soon as we get to the last ten/fifteen minutes, the story makes a 180 degree turn and I got to see something I didn’t expect and was perplexed by it, as it doesn't suit that what we saw beforehand, at least in the extreme manner it is depicted.

John Goodman is outrageously brilliant as Howard, the apocalyptic nut who encloses Michelle and Emmett in his fallout shelter with him and tells them he is their saviour. Goodman is one of the truly great actors still alive and his portrayal of Howard is riveting, giving me goosebumps every time he appears on screen. This is because there is really something off with the character; his extreme need to control everything is really uncomfortable and it is impossible to decipher what his real motives and intentions are, which makes the female protagonist be on constant alert.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Michelle, and she gives the best performance of career to date. Michelle is the viewer’s conduit as we obtain every bit of new information through her, but what I appreciated most is that Michelle is not a stupid character, she is in fact extremely smart and pays close attention to her surroundings. Winstead’s acting matches that of Goodman in every possible way and she manages to convey her feelings about her situation perfectly.

John Gallagher Jr. is the most underrated actor in this small motion picture. It is his character that somewhat stabilises the situation between Howard and Michelle and brings at least a sense of normality into the absurd situation. Emmett is also the funniest of the three, as his educational level is not very high, which leads to some humorous lines of dialogue.

The cinematography for this movie is as close to perfect as it can get. Trachtenberg delivers a beautiful picture, very reminiscent of thrillers from the 50’s, and does not let the camerawork be confined by the enclosed space they were filming at. There is always something visually new to explore, while it keeps building suspense and tension. The camera also pays close attention to smaller objects that might not look very interesting at first, such as a game, a hand movement or a book. There is also some good use of special effects, although the darkness of them scenes clouded these.

Bear McCreary composed the music, with the opening song setting the mood for what type of film to expect. The complete soundtrack is actually chillingly fantastic and very reminiscent of other Hitchcock movies.

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Verdict: I really wanted to give this high-tense thriller a perfect score but due to the rushed third act reveal that, even though hinted at throughout the whole plot, did not really suit the rest of the film (like a wrong piece of the puzzle), I needed to take off some points. Nevertheless, the rest of this premise is a fantastic homage to the old school cinema of thriller and horror; the script is written very clever and the performances by the three actors are extraordinary. This was one of my best times in a cinema and I will therefore give 10 Cloverfield Lane a 9.5 out of 10.

Ladies and Gents, this is a movie I can only recommend to go see in cinemas, as it is worth your time and money! I was extremely surprised by it and will go see it again, as soon as it is officially released in Germany. Thank you very much for reading and as always, if you found this review helpful make sure to like it and subscribe.

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