10 Cloverfield Lane (a short study)
2016 ‧ Fantasy/Mystery ‧ 1h 46m ‧ dir. Dan Trachtenberg
A Claustrophobic Thriller - Charlotte Haley (FR)
The ability of an actor to transfer the emotions of their character to an audience is a skill especially vital to films which rely on suspense, as 10 Cloverfield Lane does. Though it uses the same, notorious name as the Matt Reeves action film (Cloverfield, 2008), Dan Trachtenburg has chosen to take this quasi-sequel in a different direction to the sci-fi scare-fest. His main character, the strong-willed and amazingly resourceful Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), survives a car-crash, only to find herself in the bunker of a man named Howard (John Goodman). Though he believes he is protecting her from an attack which has rendered the outside world inhospitable to humans, Michelle has trouble trusting this imposing, relatively unstable survivalist. She embodies the motif of escapism that gives the film its almost evasive quality. Throughout, Trachtenburg seems tastefully to avoid the rather unsavoury undertones of John Goodman’s ‘doomsday prepper’, hinting at his dark past in subtle ways. This benefits the atmosphere no end, creating a tension that remains long after the film has ended, and offering no repose to an audience that has suffered with every pain Winstead communicates, her acting skilled and effortless.
Yet, more remarkable is the film’s use of up-beat music, totally incongruous with the oppressive alienation that abounds in the underground bunker. And this, it seems, is the crux of the film. Paradoxical relationships manifest in a presentation of connections forged and broken: although Michelle is forced to find solace in the loveable Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), also living in the bunker, she is also pushed to face solitude. Claustrophobic yet homely, the bunker obliges those within to confront the gravest shades of human nature, while constantly mindful of the destruction of the outside world that Howard impresses upon them. Thus, the music and vibrant colour scheme embody this sense of conflict and contradiction, consciously clashing with the desperation of Michelle and the horrific turns eventually taken by Trachtenburg. Moreover, the limited setting and use of silence fabricates a play-like format, sustained by the trio, whose spoken and unspoken interactions weave an intricate dynamic that assumes normalcy by the middle of the film. Nevertheless, the audience is continuously aware of the discomfort that this unorthodox dynamic evokes, leaving a bitter taste in the mouth until it is changed by the illumination of hidden secrets. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a film of constant change, yet never once does it forfeit suspense for hollow style, sustaining the sickening desperation of Michelle and her audience, totally enraptured by Winstead’s performance. Trachtenburg’s feel for concentrated tension has set him up to create other anxiety-driven films in the future.
Charlotte Haley - 2016 Film Representative @ FAFF