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Film review: 10 Cloverfield Lane – J.J. Abrams reinvents the franchise concept

Genre-bending thriller’s small budget notwithstanding, this is a cleverly thought through story with good performances from the cast

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 April, 2016, 7:01am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 April, 2016, 7:01am

3.5/5 stars

A spiritual sequel to 2008’s Cloverfield, 10 Cloverfield Lane is another J.J. Abrams production that plays its cards close to its chest. An unexpected blend of apocalyptic science-fiction and serial killer styles, it is, for once, completely impossible to guess how the story will resolve. Just when you think you’ve solved the puzzle, a new event throws you back in the dark.

It begins with a neat set-up: Michelle (scream queen Mary Elizabeth Winstead) crashes her car and wakes up locked in the basement of the scuzzy Howard (John Goodman). Realising she has been kidnapped, she pleads to be set free. But Howard explains that she has not been kidnapped at all – in fact, he has saved her.

Since her car crash, he says, there has been a disaster – perhaps a nuclear bomb attack, perhaps an alien invasion – that has wiped out humanity and poisoned the atmosphere outside. Howard says his basement, which turns out to be a fully stocked nuclear bunker, is not a prison, but a safe haven. So is Howard telling the truth about the disaster, or is it all a perverted ruse to keep Michelle locked up?

‘Something of an anthology’: J.J. Abrams explains vision for a Cloverfield universe

This central idea is exploited very well by the filmmakers, who make the clues fit both interpretations of reality, as in The Sixth Sense. This equivocal approach doesn’t let up until the very end, and the resolution is satisfying, proving that the writers (including Whiplash director Damien Chazelle) have carefully thought the story through.

A bigger budget would have made the film more effective, but everything looks good enough, and some excellent performances increase the excitement.

10 Cloverfield Lane opens on April 14

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