The spiritual companion piece to 2008’s overrated Cloverfield, Dan Trachtenberg’s intimate “end of the world” thriller is a huge step up in class and features one of John Goodman’s best performances.
Hailed as the spiritual companion piece to Matt Reeve’s real time monster mash, Cloverfield Lane is part B-movie throwback and contemporary case study in paranoia for the modern age. Director Dan Trachtenberg and writer Josh Campbell have crafted a pressure cooker proposition of insecurity and mistrust, which hinges on the word of one man.
John Goodman’s Howard is a socially awkward saviour with morally dubious agendas, anger management issues and keys to the bunker. Monosyllabic, prone to fits of rage and notions of persecution, Goodman anchors the film in a recognisable reality whilst staying the right side of caricature. His opposite number played with the savvy and smarts which Mary Elizabeth Winstead brings to every role, act as our eyes and ears in this moral vacuum.
Relying on reaction shots and minimal dialogue Winstead breathes life into the character and situation without the need for grandstanding. Playing off of John Gallagher’s Emmett, himself a refugee from an outside world he misunderstands, Winstead befriends, convinces and colludes as Trachtenberg’s film slowly unravels.
Those hoping for an action packed sequel to Cloverfield should prepare themselves for disappointment, as this second coming burns slow in the biblical sense. Conversations are stilted, sound effects everything and there is some real acting on display. Goodman has not been this good since his Barton Fink/Coen Brothers heyday getting a chance to really own the character. Whilst Winstead casts off the shackles of Die Hard 4 and Scott Pilgrim and shows her mettle, in a role which requires more than running around screaming.
In many senses 10 Cloverfield Lane comes off like a stage play with moments of balanced tension, momentary release and concise dialogue used only to move things along. Mixed in with the obvious comparisons are some murder mystery elements, flashes of homage and that nice left of centre plot twist. With the way economic, ethnic and political lines are currently being drawn, our exit from Europe or not and the travesty which is America’s current Presidential election campaign, distrust, distortion and isolationist ideologies seem pertinent to address in films once again. What Trachtenberg and Campbell have created here is allegorical entertainment for those with a brain and conscience. An admiration companion piece to its name sake and reminder of what cinema is capable of.