Described by producer J.J. Abrams as a ‘spiritual sequel’ to Cloverfield (2008), director Dan Trachtenberg brings his debut project to the big screen: a tense, science fiction mystery psychological thriller.
Co-written by Whiplash (2015) director and writer, Damien Chazelle, it’s a juicy set up; almost Hitchcockian – a woman has a car accident and wakes up in an underground bunker with a man who claims he has saved her life and that the outside world is no longer safe. A monster attack like Cloverfield? A nuclear strike? You won’t get the answers from me, so go and see it for yourselves. Trachtenberg skilfully keeps the audience guessing throughout the film and the real drama lies not outside, but deep below in the bowels of, and in the ‘safety’ of the bunker.
Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), very much like Brie Larson in Lenny Abrahamson’s Room (2016), completely turns the gender roles upside down. Upon her arrival, she is initially confused and afraid but as the film progresses, so does her character. The wannabe fashion designer is intelligent, determined, manipulative and resourceful, with her mind set on one thing; escape and find out the truth about Howard and what is really happening beyond those grim four walls.
If there’s one way to sell a movie to a studio it’s this: tell them you’ve signed up John Goodman. They’ll throw the money at you (or at least, they should). Goodman treads the line between threat and kindness with ease and you gotta see the guy dance!
He isn’t the charming psychopathic salesman Charlie Muntz we saw in Barton Fink (1991), nor angry Vietnam veteran Walter Sobchak from The Big Lebowski (1998). He has some of their traits, but brings his own unique style to his character in a way only he will know how. Where on Earth was he in Joel and Ethan’s latest offering, Hail, Caesar!, that’s what I want to know.
It may lose itself in the last fifteen minutes, but the drama and intensity of the previous one-hundred minutes more than make up for it.