10 Cloverfield Lane

 

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A woman is trapped in a room. Her abductor is played by John Goodman. Can she believe a word he says?

 

At one point in 10 Cloverfield Lane the three principal characters sit around playing guessing games. Of course, the larger picture – the film itself – is one big guessing game. It starts off promisingly, with Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Michelle, a young woman on the run from her fiancé Ben (Bradley Cooper). We know this because she leaves behind her engagement ring and the keys to their apartment. Bear McCreary's music sets up the mood nicely, stylishly mirroring Jeff Cutter’s lush cinematography – the opening scenes could have been pieced together by Brian De Palma. However, this is the directorial debut of Dan Trachtenberg, the helmer of TV commercials. Look at the names of the producers and one gets a better feel for the pedigree. The main producer is J.J. Abrams, director of the re-booted Star Trek and Star Wars: The Force Awakens and producer of Cloverfield (2008). The executive producer is Drew Goddard, who was recently nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay to The Martian. Goddard’s co-executive producer, Matt Reeves, directed Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. So we should be expecting some good stuff here.

 

 10 Cloverfield Lane

Room for improvement? Mary Elizabeth Winstead

 

It’s unfortunate, then, that 10 Cloverfield Lane arrives so soon after Lenny Abrahamson’s supremely intelligent and moving Room. Which is good enough reason to return to the plot. As Michelle drives through Louisiana listening to the entreaties of Bradley Cooper on her phone (he wants her back) she is distracted and crashes her car. She wakes up in a room in her T-shirt and knickers and realises that she is being held prisoner by John Goodman. He tells her that there has been a gas attack outside, the rest of civilisation has been wiped out and that her only hope of survival is to stay with him in his meticulously outfitted underground bunker.

 

Should one accept this is as the B-side to Room, one might gain the greatest pleasure from Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken and Damien Chazelle's deceitful script. Goodman’s Howard tells Michelle little, the better to stretch out her – and our – mounting panic. She responds as the typical heroine-in-distress would, with all her clichés intact. We know we are being taken for a ride. It’s not long until a third character – Emmett (John Gallagher Jr) – joins the enigma that things begin to creak. Here are people who have (supposedly) lost all their loved ones and civilisation as they knew it. A perfect opportunity for character-building insights into their lives and hopes for the future. But this is barely touched on, and neither are their feelings of grief or anguish. Meanwhile, John Goodman stomps around like an enigmatic Bogeyman with nary an iota of credibility. But stay with it: this is pulp cinema with some surprises up its sleeve – and don’t forget it’s produced by J.J. Abrams.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr, Bradley Cooper.

 

Dir Dan Trachtenberg, Pro J. J. Abrams and Lindsey Weber, Screenplay Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken and Damien Chazelle, Ph Jeff Cutter, Pro Des Ramsey Avery, Ed Stefan Grube, Music Bear McCreary, Costumes Meagan McLaughlin.

 

Bad Robot Productions-Paramount Pictures.

103 mins. USA. 2016. Rel: 18 March 2016. Cert. 12A.