I’m not sure where to start about 10 Cloverfield Lane in this Blu-ray review. Do I talk about how much I love this film or do I explore the veil of secrecy it was literally made under? I mean we all knew J.J. Abrams was busy far, far away in another galaxy making The Force Awakens, but how many people besides his trusted confidants knew anything about this secret project until its initial trailer dropped in January with 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi? However, the real question should probably address the conundrum that how does one or lets say the uninitiated with 10 Cloverfield Lane go into this? Do you treat it as a direct sequel to 2008’s Cloverfield expecting more or less the same or is it really just a blood relative or as Abrams calls it a spiritual successor? These questions and more I hope to tackle and answer below in the main body of my Blu-ray review. So what are you waiting for? Get your reading on!
It’s now the month of June in 2016 and if someone held a gun to my head (9mm ammo or higher) and made me publicly declare what one of my favorite films of the year thus far was, the choice I would mutter would be an easy one requiring zero thought process. One of them would definitely be 10 Cloverfield Lane. Kori may not have enjoyed the much movie nearly as much as I did, but I had a giddy good ole time with much akin to my fervor and affinity for Cabin in the Woods back in 2011, but more about that in a few. 10 Cloverfield Lane is first and foremost a bunker thriller ripe with many gripping and tension filled moments. However, the ending gets bat sh1t crazy much in the same vein as Cabin in the Woods and shockingly when you find out you’re exactly where producer J.J. Abrams wants you, in the middle of his zany, experimental Cloverfied world. I digress though. I’m getting way ahead of myself because I haven’t even told you what it’s all about or who all the major players involved are other than Abrams. So let’s take a small step backwards before I spill anymore of the goods.
I called 10 Cloverfield Lane a bunker thriller up above, but then I went on to say how absolutely crazy it gets so I think it’s probably more accurate it really call it a science fiction, psychological thriller. Dan Trachtenberg makes his directorial debut with this one from a script furnished by Josh Campbell, Matthew Stucken and Damien Chazelle. The film has a very small cast, albeit a P-E-R-F-E-C-T one, due in part to its tight constraints throughout and stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman and John Gallagher Jr. It was developed form a script originally titled The Cellar, but under the guidance, nurture and care of Bad Robot it became the “spiritual successor” to the 2008 film Cloverfield. Here’s the kicker though and a point I’m very happy to highlight and drive home. Unlike its predecessor’s found footage style this one is shot and presented as a straightforward third-person narrative. Sweet baby Yahweh! There is a God! I tend to very much hate first-person point of view or found footage style movies. So needless to say, I’m very happy with this change of direction.
10 Cloverfield Lane follows a young woman (Winstead) who after a pretty serious car crash is held in an underground bunker with two men who insist that a hostile event (think the catastrophic events of the first film) has left the surface of the Earth uninhabitable (or the Earth’s atmosphere unbreathable if you prefer). She wakes up to this nightmarish news in this survivalist’s (Goodman) underground bunker. Depending upon whether or not you believe the Earth is ranged from the events in the first Cloverfield, his claims to have saved her from undeniable doom outside seem warranted and justified, don’t you think? His righteous cause and theories are further supported by a mysterious stranger who is in the bunker with them (Gallagher Jr.). Once she finally settles in and starts to believe the new life and cards that have been dealt to her, suspicious actions lead her to question her capturer’s (or savior depending upon how you look at it) motives. The only way she’ll find out the absolute unbiased truth is she will have to devise a way to escape, but that’s easier said than done as you will come to find out. The ending though is what will really “shock you senseless” (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone). And when it comes to the acting of John Goodman, well you really can’t say enough good things about him.
So with a Certified Fresh score of 90% score awarded by critics on Rotten Tomatoes, can you really argue that 10 Cloverfield Lane will not rock your world? I guess if you’re my girlfriend, you can, but for the masses out there, 10 Cloverfield Lane will deliver and payoff just like Cabin in the Woods did. I promise you that. You can take that to the bank. Now here’s the sticky part of the conversation I wanted to have with y’all. How do you go into this one or prepare for it? Do you watch the first film? Absolutely! It’s essential to know what all went down in that 2008 film and being armed with that knowledge fully prepares you for what might or what possibly might not be going down in the outside world. I love the doubt this spiritual successor paints. Is everything as horrible as it seems to be in the outside world or is the real nightmare being trapped in the bunker with a potential psychopath/killer? That’s obviously the psychological thriller aspect of this. The science fiction piece is the material or mythology that’s built upon from he first outing back in 2008. That’s where all hell breaks loose and I love it for that. However, that’s all I’ll say on the matter. Moving on…
- Encoding: AVC MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p
- Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
- Clarity/Detail: The film presentation here has a very earthy, organic, cinematic feel to it complete with a thin, veneer layer of grain. In other words, it’s not your crystal clear, razor sharp digitally shot print. However, the moments of clarity are impeccable here. Let’s take Mary Elizabeth Winstead for instead as reference. Every pore, mole, strand of hair and even the individual grooves in her red lipstick lips are brilliantly rendered, chiseled and on display here. What I found intimidating were the porous and rough, cold, grey cinder blocks in her bunker dungeon. Talk about clarity!
- Depth: There are a lot of shots where depth of field is prominently on display, so let’s talk about a few of them. Obviously, there are expansive shots, but even in tight corners such as in the bunker, an apartment or even in the food cellar, the camera’s eye in this presentation perfectly captures the depth of the situation, both literally and figuratively. It also helps too that the onscreen characters all exhibit that three-dimensional Blu-ray pop against their environments.
- Black Levels: The black levels are deep and inky throughout. One of the finest examples of black levels was near the beginning outside at night when Mary’s character was getting gas. That looked like a million buck in contrast with the neon gas station signs.
- Color Reproduction: I don’t want to go on record by saying the colors are vivid and bright, but they definitely aren’t mute either. The tonal quality changes upon the situation. For example, when you’re above ground, it makes sense that things look a little brighter, but when you’re bunkertized, you can expect to feel a little blue. Does that make sense? All in all, there’s faithful color reproduction to go around here in my opinion.
- Flesh Tones: The skin tones are all lifelike and authentic looking throughout the presentation.
- Noise/Artifacts: Other than the thin layer of grain I mentioned up above I did not notice any noise or unwanted artifacts that would keep you from enjoying this near perfect presentation.
- Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos (defaults to Dolby TrueHD 7.1), French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital
- Subtitles: English Audio Description, English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
- Dynamics: I think one of the first things you’ll notice upon settling in with 10 Cloverfield Lane is how quiet it can be. However, sometimes it feels like you can cut that quiet tension in the air with a knife. That’s why I love this movie. Other times things are bumping, jumping and thumping. So there’s quite a balance here between the highs and lows and I think this audio presentation does a fine job of balancing the chaos with the tranquility of it all.
- Low Frequency Extension: You will instantly notice the subwoofer for the first time in the car crash episode. It crunches you in with its sheer force and makes you feel like you just got hit. The sub also comes alive during the many action moments when our protagonist is trying to escape and of course that surprise ending that will leave you wanting to revisit Cabin in the Woods. I promise you.
- Surround Sound Presentation: Besides the LFE presentation, this is probably the most notable in not only the action moments of peril, but that dreaded car crash in the beginning. You literally get hit from all directions in this surround presentation from that crash. Other moments include the zany ending, which I keep referring to, as well as the subtle score and soundtrack that harmoniously bleeds into the rears.
- Dialogue Reproduction: The dialog is clear, intelligible and prioritized throughout.
The Blu-ray Combo Pack of 10 Cloverfield Lane includes a redemption code for a Digital HD file (works for both an UltraViolet version and an iTunes copy), commentary with director Dan Trachtenberg and producer J.J. Abrams and over 30 minutes of special, behind-the-scenes features. So in other words there’s not a whole lot here, but let’s thankful of three things: we can enjoy it anywhere on the go, we get an audio commentary and some EPK-style behind-the-scenes footage for the hardcore fans. We could be much worse off compared to other Blu-ray releases.
- Commentary – This audio commentary features director Dan Trachtenberg and producer J.J. Abrams. I don’t know about you, but I miss the video commentaries of the early Blu-ray releases. However, I digress. The way Dan Trachtenberg directs this through the eyes of a first time director is inspiring.
- Featurettes (HD, 34:32) – This one is broken into seven different featurettes with a play all functionality as it contains over 30 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage. Here we get to take an extensive look with Abrams and the cast as they revisit the legacy of 2008’s Cloverfield, and discuss how 10 Cloverfield Lane went from just a spec script to production in the Cloverfield universe. Then we continue on with a tour of the confined bunker in question here (most interesting to me), see how the costume designer was challenged to create a homemade Hazmat suit, follow the production team and sound designers as they work on the movie’s epic finale, hear the unique scores composed for each character an more. The seven parts to this extra are: Cloverfield Too, Bunker Mentality, Duck and Cover, Spin-off, Kelvin Optical, Fine Tuned and End of Story.
Although this isn’t traditionally a release I would ever take unboxing pictures of I feel it is my civic duty as an American to show you how asinine the half-a$$ slip cover is and lastly, the missing puzzle pieces I received. Haha. I love that little gag gift!
So there you have it folks! Do I need to sell you anymore than I have? It’s a solid presentation all around, but also more importantly it’s a bunker thriller yo. It doesn’t get any better than that! You have tension, close encounters and the Cloverfield universe. Anything and everything could possibly happen. So what are you waiting for? You know 10 Cloverfield Lane is a MUST-OWN film in 2016, an amazing movie from an equally amazing first-time feature director. Bring it home on the format that matters most…Blu-ray! Pre-order today!
10 Cloverfield Lane
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