10 Cloverfield Lane Blu-ray Review

Smothering

With a restless pacing and drip-fed paranoia, director Dan Trachtenberg’s sort of Cloverfield sequel pins to survivalist culture. John Goodman’s eerie bunker-building Howard propels 10 Cloverfield Lane toward success, both as a fear culture allegory and effective escape thriller.

With a stunning hold on its tension, Trachtenberg locks the perspective to captive Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). 10 Cloverfield Lane’s narrative motion is comprised of minor details, building to a multitude of smart story reveals. Michelle is trapped in Howard’s idealist underground bunker which preserves American life as he sees it, rich in conservative values. This leads to a reflexive violent streak when they’re opposed.

His methods ensure total submission and the camera’s eerie closeness renders the images uncomfortable. Howard’s story isn’t about whether he’s right about the supposed nuclear or chemical attacks outside of his concrete fortification. It’s considering the cost of post-9/11 fears and how those seeking survival become the fear they detest.

The surroundings are ideal. There’s a jukebox of family-friendly tunes in the living room, a calming country kitchen, and childish board games on a shelf. Such a setting invokes images of ’50s-era America, quaint, comfortable, and charming while on the outside unspoken things happen – invisibly for much of the film. Inside, there are no urges. “No touching!” shouts Howard as Winstead glances the hand of Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), the bunker’s third occupant.

Winstead’s reality is that of contemporary anxieties, bringing terrorism fears and a Twilight Zone-like story ploy together.

Excitement consistently draws from new discoveries, Winstead finding new locations, new clues, and unnerving history. No hint is wasted. Howard takes on the form of an uneasy, unsettled father figure midway through, creating a specific uncertainty as to his intentions. 10 Cloverfield Lane doesn’t deviate from the possibility that he’s right, but institutes significant misdirection to keep things open ended.

10 Cloverfield Lane’s closing act continues the theme in an unorthodox way. Winstead’s reality turns into a visible figment of contemporary anxieties, bringing terrorism fears and a Twilight Zone-like story together. The two merge in an ample special effects showcase, and suddenly those tenuous connections to Cloverfield become a bit clearer. The film earns success in its parable and as a bit of juicy escapist cinema, unwilling to find total closure. If it did, 10 Cloverfield Lane would abandon its clever thematic core.

10 Cloverfield Lane Blu-ray screen shot 11

Video

Don’t be fooled: 10 Cloverfield Lane was a digital production of the Red Epic, not film, even if the convincing artificial grain structure seems to indicate otherwise. Unlike some other recent digital/film mimics (Creed), Paramount’s hearty encode resolves the digital images minus any problems. Imitation grain doesn’t lead to any compression concerns, preserving a superb presentation.

From the outset, 10 Cloverfield Lane strikes with plentiful visual energy. Detail and sharpness carry a likeable fidelity, resolving minutiae in close and in the environments. Resolution holds firm. Inside the bunker, even with the lessened lighting, facial detail remains of prime importance.

Opening scenes inside of an apartment push superlative contrast. Underground, light sources veer from warm to cool, while still holding to strong brightness. Black levels strike equally, capturing excellent shadows and falling to true black. A scene outside of a gas station feels totally isolated by the surrounding night. Depth never falls from that peak.

Audio

Stupendous LFE support accentuates one of the better 7.1 car crashes. The TrueHD/Atmos track’s first strike comes as Winstead is flipped repeatedly inside of her vehicle, a loud and disorienting bit of design. Each thud feels weighted and the panning debris (glass especially) creates motion through the positional channels.

There’s disappointment inside the bunker itself. The space struggles to sound as claustrophobic as it looks. Rear channel support remains tepid. Still, the track doesn’t allow anyone to forget the location with booming overhead [spoiler things] which hit the bunker like an earthquake. When the action pops in the final minutes, surrounds reengage. A few powerful explosions throw debris flawlessly through the soundfield and Winstead’s placement is surrounded by danger as she struggles.

Extras

Director Dan Trachtenberg and producer JJ Abrams join for a commentary track, followed by a collection of seven featurettes which total up to 35 minutes. Some are weak, veering toward EPK status with needless plot recap. Others focus on the visual effects and story connections which are definitely the more interesting aspects.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process. Patreon supporters can view additional screen captures.