Mary Elizabeth Winstead is one of our most capable actresses and refuses to bow down to generality. I’ve seen many people laud her as this generations Scream Queen, owing to her performances in horror movies and more, and while the title, previously held by the likes of Neve Campbell and Jamie Lee Curtis could be a fair statement to make, Winstead is a whole lot more than just genre royalty. Rising to prominence in the brilliant cult classic Scott Pilgrim vs The World as the rainbow haired Ramona Flowers, Winstead has seen a steady rise in a career and has chosen films that suited her alluring talent such as The Thing, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and Faults. They may not be well known, nor may they be brilliant, but Mary Elizabeth Winstead sure as hell is.
If you, like me, love her unconditionally then her starring turn in 10 Cloverfield Lane will solidify your obsession.
The film, literally heard about a few months ago and now is praised by industry fellows, critics, and audiences alike, sees Winstead as Michelle, a woman fleeing from her engagement. On the lowly strips of Louisiana, she is run off the road. Waking up in an underground bunker, she meets to highly creepy Howard who tells her of a nuclear attack and how he saved her, keeping her locked away. With fellow bunkee Emmett also there, Michelle tries to figure out her new surroundings as they survive underneath the bunker: But is Howard telling the truth? Is the world truly destroyed up there? Or is something horrific lurking underground with them?
Centring on three actors and the majority of the film taking place in this multi-room setting, the air of claustrophobia heightens and already tense thriller. Directed by Dan Trachtenberg in his directorial debut and written by Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken, and Whiplash’s Damien Chazelle, the film in a courageous romp that mixes science fiction elements with atmospheric tension. The main arc is escape and survival, mixed with unease and distrust and the solid contained script allows it to grip and entice with our characters. Trachtenberg, for a new filmmaker, actually knows how to tell a story and emote a scene: He knows when to reveal and when to hold back, he knows which buttons to press as the film gloriously twists down our neck with stunning chills.
A lot of this visceral depth is enhanced by the brilliance of Winstead in a leading role. As Michelle, she is completely engaging and you get every single emotion that she is trying to convey. Her work is absolutely breath-taking her as her character transcends the usual hapless female arc into a resourceful and plentiful heroine. Opposed to her is the excellent John Goodman who powerfully masters the art of bewildering villainy. In seconds he is charming then horrifying, friendly then creepy, and Goodman manages all of this whilst making him a realistic threat. John Gallagher Jr is a great comedic foil for the pair as each spar off with hidden agendas… It’s an astute and fantastic trio of acting!
As many have said, this is the spiritual cousin to the acclaimed found footage alien apocalypse film Cloverfield. And I’m not going to spoil it by mention how beyond ye olde attack but having them linked spells good things for Hollywood and its lovers: Filmmaking can still be innovative and produce a franchise unique in its premise and terror. Perhaps many can learn from 10 Cloverfield Lane. After all, you don’t have to be bombarded with marketing or be told years in advanced about a film being made to appreciate it, well, being made…
Without all this, however, 10 Cloverfield Lane stands as a masterpiece of thrilling suspense, twisting the story, and character righting so sensational, you’ll be hard pushed to find a better blockbuster this year. An underground hit turned into an out of this world adventure.