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domingo, 13 de março de 2016
10 Cloverfield Lane review: 'a modern-day Twilight Zone'
Is it a thriller, a puzzle, or a monster movie? Producer JJ Abrams's vice-like spiritual successor to 2008's Cloverfield keeps you guessing until the end
A young woman called Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) drives through the empty countryside at night. She’s upset, and doing her best to ignore the mobile phone that’s buzzing angrily at her feet.
A few moments earlier, we saw her hurriedly packing a suitcase in an apartment, cramming in enough clothes for a week, but pointedly leaving behind a diamond ring. A news report crackles across the car stereo about mysterious electrical surges causing power cuts nationwide, but she isn’t paying attention. Why would she? Her whole world is falling apart.
This is the opening of 10 Cloverfield Lane, the first feature from Dan Trachtenberg, and a spiritual successor to Matt Reeves’s 2008 film Cloverfield, in which a band of self-admiring New York hipsters were trampled by an enormous 9/11 metaphor. Unlike an ordinary sequel, Trachtenberg’s film doesn’t pick up where Reeves’s left off: in fact, it probably doesn’t even take place in the same movie universe.
Instead, think of the title as an invitation from producer JJ Abrams, Hollywood’s master of the tease, to chew over the new film in light of the old one. Both are darkly enthralling, fantastical thrillers that use allegory like an explosive harpoon. And both borrow astutely from video games: Cloverfield most obviously in its blood-pounding first-person perspective, and 10 Cloverfield Lane in the way clue-gathering and lateral thinking click open the traps of its puzzle-box plot.
So when Michelle’s journey is interrupted, and she wakes in an empty concrete room with her leg chained to a pipe, the pleasure of the scene comes in scanning her surroundings and working out what on earth she can do to escape – then realising she’s doing the same.
All of 10 Cloverfield Lane is a game about finding out what’s hidden behind the next door. It’s not until the final 15 minutes that we find out if we’ve been watching a science-fiction or horror movie.
Michelle’s host is Howard (John Goodman), a quick-tempered survivalist type with a 10-year stockpile of tinned food and an appetite for armageddon. The room is part of Howard’s underground shelter, where he says he dragged Michelle when disaster struck.
“There’s been an attack,” he tells her. “A big one.” Chemical or nuclear? Russia or Iran? All of the above? The details aren’t yet clear.
But the air outside is unbreathable, and the poison will take at least a year to dissipate. Until then, they’re stuck downstairs together: Michelle, Howard, and Emmet (John Gallagher Jr.), a baseball-capped, dim-grinning fellow survivor.
Most of the film takes place in this vacuum-packed, Sartrean hell of other people, which Trachtenberg, his cast, writers and crew evoke with chest-tightening efficiency. Every sound and line rings with a tight, tinny echo; every room is felt out to its corners; every knick-knack drily noted.
The script, by Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken and Damien Chazelle, the director of Whiplash, has a meticulous control of tone, and the film zips between claustrophobic tension and nervous laughs with hoverfly agility. Michelle, Howard and Emmett are in no sense natural flatmates, and we’re drip-fed details about Howard’s past which throw doubt on his original story.
What Michelle sees through the hatch suggests Howard is broadly telling the truth. But he’s also an old-school, blustering patriarch, and defining and limiting other people’s worlds is what he does.
Michelle’s gradual realisation that she has to face and survive what’s outside on her own terms is the heart of the film, and Winstead plays that transformation with a subtlety and slyness that’s hugely satisfying to watch.
The final heaving-open of the bunker door – think the hatch-cracking first-season cliffhanger in Abrams’ TV series Lost in reverse – leads to a strange, unnerving and brief final act, which perhaps depends on one coincidence too many (it involves a conveniently placed-then-forgotten-about whisky bottle), but still ties things up with a be-tentacled, Lovecraftian flourish.
Part of the lasting intrigue of the original Cloverfield was that we never found out exactly what its title stood for – but if the answer turns out to be a smart and suspenseful modern-day Twilight Zone franchise, it would be the most satisfying twist imaginable.