10 Cloverfield Lane

Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Screenplay: Josh Campbell & Matthew Stuecken and Damien Chazelle (story by Josh Campbell & Matthew Stuecken)
Stars: John Goodman (Howard), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Michelle), John Gallagher Jr. (Emmett), Douglas M. Griffin (Driver), Suzanne Cryer (Woman), Bradley Cooper (Ben), Sumalee Montano (Voice on Radio), Frank Mottek (Radio Broadcaster)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Year of Release: 2016
Country: U.S.
10 Cloverfield Lane 4K UltraHD
10 Cloverfield LaneNote. The following review contains some spoilers. Proceed at your own risk if you have not yet seen the film.

Let's just get this out of the way: 10 Cloverfield Lane is a sharp, tense thriller of admirable economy, and it has-on the surface, at least-nothing to do with Cloverfield, the 2008 shakicam marauding monster movie, outside of the similarities of the titles, the involvement of executive producer J.J. Abrams, and a campaign of secrecy in which the film was kept completely under the radar until very shortly before its release. Of course, the filmmakers want you to try connect the two movies, even going so far as to manipulate the on-screen title treatment so that Cloverfield appears on screen by itself before the 10 and Lane slowly appear, which sets in motion the idea of connection that is summarily denied by the film's ending (Internet theories have been swirling that the films are connected and that an eventual third entry will make the connections clear, but who knows?).

The majority of 10 Cloverfield Lane takes place inside an underground bunker beneath a farmhouse somewhere in the Louisiana countryside, although it opens in the urban apartment of Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a young woman who is apparently in the midst of leaving her husband. While driving down the highway she has a terrible accident that sends her car tumbling off the road and down an embankment, and when she awakes she finds herself on a mattress on the floor of an otherwise empty room with concrete walls, a shackle around her leg and an IV drip in her arm. She is understandably disoriented and terrified, and her mind is not put to rest when she meets her captor, a large, gruff man named Howard (John Goodman) who speaks cryptically about her never being able to leave and claims that his only intention is to keep her alive.

She gradually learns that Howard does not mean her any harm and has in fact rescued her from the car wreck and brought her to the underground bunker where he is now living with a young man named Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.). Howard claims that something horrible has happened to the world outside that has made it uninhabitable. A former military man-turned-survivalist with a healthy streak of paranoia, Howard has obviously been preparing for such an eventuality for a long time since the bunker is like an underground apartment, complete with kitchen, cozy living room with wallpaper and fake plants and jukebox, a year's worth of food and water (and paperbacks for reading), and a self-contained air filtration system and power. Michelle is dubious about Howard's claims, especially since he doesn't seem to know exactly what has happened (there is a suggestion of nuclear fallout or chemical attack, although Howard has his own out-there theories about an alien invasion). There is definitely something happening above them, as the bunker is periodically rocked by what feels like massive explosions and Michelle's almost escape at one point puts her face-to-face through a window with a woman whose face looks terribly burned and is desperately trying to get in.

The hook for 10 Cloverfield Lane, then, is the burning question of what, exactly, has happened to make the world apparently uninhabitable, but writers Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, and Damien Chazelle provide a second burning question regarding Howard and his sanity. It is clear that he is not exactly your average guy, seeing as how he has spent an enormous amount of time and money and energy building an underground bunker capable of sustaining several people for more than a year, but as the story progresses, there are hints of a much darker streak within him. Part of the film's goosey thrill is how John Goodman's performance constantly oscillates, making us fear, then respect, then admire, then fear Howard again. Goodman has a countenance that can shift from goofy to threatening very quickly, something he used to great comic effect in Joel and Ethan Coen's The Big Lebowski (1998). Here he uses it to keep us utterly off balance. He is both the film's comic relief and its worst possible monster.

Director Dan Trachtenberg is, like Cloverfield director Matt Reeves, a relatively untested talent (his only previous credits are a couple of short films), and he displays a remarkable sense of what makes us squirm and grip our chair arms-or the arms of those sitting next to us. He and cinematographer Jeff Cutter (Orphan) effectively mine the story's inherent sense of claustrophobia, on which they double-down when Michelle has to crawl through an air duct to restart the air filtration system when it goes down (a clear set-up for a later situation, which is one of the film's most pressing problems on a narrative level: too many obvious set-ups for later pay-offs). It also helps that he's working with a first-rate cast; we know next to nothing about Michelle, but Mary Elizabeth Winstead draws us right into her experience, while John Gallagher Jr. takes a role that could have easily been a third wheel and turns it into the movie's unexpected heart. While there are a few moments of outright shock and awe (especially in the final 15 minutes), 10 Cloverfield Lane is primarily a slow-burn, as it stacks questions on top of questions in a way that turns each passing moment into another excruciating turn of the screw.

10 Cloverfield Lane 4K UltraHD + Blu-ray + Digital HD

Aspect Ratio2.40:1
  • English Dolby Atmos
  • English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 surround
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • German Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Subtitles English, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish
  • Audio commentary by director Dan Trachtenberg and producer J.J. Abrams
  • "Cloverfield Too" featurette
  • "Bunker Mentality" featurette
  • "Duck and Cover" featurette
  • "Spin-Off" featurette
  • "Kelvin Optical" featurette
  • "Fine Tuned" featurette
  • "End of Story" featurette
  • DistributorParamount Home Entertainment
    Release DateJanuary 23, 2018

    Paramount's 4K presentation of 10 Cloverfield Lane looks great. As cinematographer Jeff Cutter explains in one of the supplements, he sought to light the film practically, so that all the scenes in the underground bunker (which comprises about 75% of the film's running time) are lit entirely by visible source lighting. That gives the film a naturalistic feel that the UHD transfer captures quite nicely. Some of the rooms have a warmer light to them, while others have a cool, fluorescent tone. The transfer manages black levels and shadow detail with no problem, and the image retains a nice sharpness throughout. The Dolby Atmos surround soundtrack is extremely impressive, which benefits the film's ominous, Bernard Herrmann-esque score. When the film gets more action-oriented in the final third, the subwoofer kicks in and the surround channels ensure that we are fully immersed in the chaos (this is also true of the car wreck scene at the beginning, which is impressively rendered in terms of sound dynamics). All of the supplements have been ported over from the previously available Blu-ray. Recorded together, director Dan Trachtenberg and producer J.J. Abrams contribute a lively, informative audio commentary (Trachtenberg admits right off the bat the recording a commentary was one aspect of the production he was most looking forward to, having grown up listening to commentaries). They have a good rapport as they talk about the film and their various intentions. The disc also includes seven behind-the-scenes featurettes that run about 34 minutes total. Individually, they are pretty short (the longest is 9 minutes, the shortest is less than 2 minutes), but when played together they provide a concise, informative look at the film's production, ranging from the origins of the original screenplay, to the production design of the bunker, to the special effects (both practical and CGI), to the orchestral score. Interview subjects include Trachtenberg, Abrams, stars John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and John Gallagher Jr., cinematographer Jeff Cutter, production designer Ramsey Avery, editor Stefan Grube, composer Bear McCreary, and special effects supervisor Matt Kutcher Sr.

    Copyright © 2018 James Kendrick

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    All images copyright © Paramount Home Entertainment

    Overall Rating: (3)

    James Kendrick

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