Updated: Apr 17, 2018
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW
“10 CLOVERFIELD LANE”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD copy; 2016; PG-13 for thematic material including frightening sequences of threat with some violence, and brief profanity; streaming via Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes (4K),
Best extra: Commentary with producer J.J. Abrams and first-time director Dan Trachtenberg
PARAMOUNT PICTURES continues its slow and methodical release of its diverse and rich library of films onto 4K Ultra HD via physical discs and streaming services. To date, the studio has released just shy of 20 movies.
To coincide with the 10th anniversary of “Cloverfield” (2008), with its giant monster terrorizing Manhattan and a gang of attractive twentysomethings, the studio decided to push “Cloverfield” and “10 Cloverfield Lane” to the top of the 4K-release list.
It didn’t hurt that a third film, “The Cloverfield Paradox,” began streaming on Netflix after Super Bowl 51. Starring Daniel Brühl, Elizabeth Debicki and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as astronauts fighting for survival after an experiment on a space station goes wrong, word quickly spread across social media and critics that “Paradox” didn’t live up to its hope. “10 Cloverfield Lane” remains the best sequel in the series.
All three films were produced by J.J. Abrams, who resurrected the studio’s “Star Trek” and “Mission Impossible” franchise for a whopping $3 billion worldwide gross. And that was before he headed to Disney to helm the new “Star Wars” films.
A decade ago, director Matt Reeves (“Dawn of the Planet of Apes,” “War for the Planet of Apes”) initiated the crowd-pleasing “Cloverfield” docudrama with its found-video footage. It was captured on low-grade HD cameras (1080p), and, since it wasn’t a particularly good upgrade match for a 4K/HDR, we skipped it.
BUT FOR the critically acclaimed psychodrama “10 Cloverfield Lane,” captured on 6K RAW digital cameras, you can’t go wrong with its 4K reincarnation.
Abrams handpicked director Dan Trachtenberg, who made his feature film directorial début. “10 Cloverfield Lane” was filmed in a New Orleans’ warehouse for a modest $12 million and grossed $110 million worldwide. The thriller was originally a spec script resembling a 1960’s “Twilight Zone,” Abrams said during one of the making-of featurettes on the enclosed Blu-ray and iTunes extras.
Trachtenberg, a Temple University film school grad, had knocked on Abrams’ Bad Robot Production house door for years hoping for a chance. The Philadelphia native applied to the prestigious USC and NYU film schools in the late ‘90s, but was rejected. Eventually, he became a sort of podcast/videocast celebrity, directing a YouTube short “Portal: No Escape” (2011), which received over 21 million views. He also directed commercials for Nike, Lexus and Coca-Cola.
Abrams and Trachtenberg reunite for the comprehensive commentary included on the 4K disc and on iTunes. It’s one of the best, a complete insider’s look into the production.
The first-time director is overcome at the idea that he’s there with Abrams. “This is as exciting to me as it was making the movie,” he says. The filmmaker had grown up listening to commentaries: “This was part film school for me.” We quickly realize Abrams’ is an extraordinary and modest teacher and mentor as Trachtenberg reveals many of his suggested filmmaking tips and tricks.
The producer pushed Trachtenberg to drop the original dialogue from the opening montage. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who plays the tough and resourceful Michelle, packs her bags after a phone argument with her fiancé (voiced by Bradley Cooper). She leaves her engagement ring behind and drives away from New Orleans. “J.J. was a big champion of doing this as an elegant, silent tale, and that it would be so much more rewarding for the audience,” Trachtenberg says.
Composer Bear McCreary provided a haunting Bernard Herrmann-like score, featuring dozens of cellos over the opening sequence. Herrmann had been Hitchcock’s composer for decades, and “10 Cloverfield Lane” clearly has a Hitchcockian tone.
During most of the production, Abrams was in England filming “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” but still carved out time each day to watch the “Cloverfield Lane” dailies via laptop. Abrams felt additional footage was needed for a crash scene when a truck hits Michelle’s car. It spins out of control with a half a car attached to a gimbal for the effect, but missed the intimacy of showing Michelle’s face. So, they set up a small blue screen in a corner of the Bad Robot office, locked the camera around Winstead’s face, and tossed the actress around. “It really worked,” says Trachtenberg.
Five featurettes include interviews with the crew and the three-cast members. John Goodman plays Howard, the troubled ex-Navy survivalist. “He’s got a little loose wiring in his head. He’s overly concerned about being wiped out by forces unknown and he obsesses with it,” Goodman says.
When Michelle awakes from the accident, she finds herself in a cinder-block room chained to the wall, with a makeshift brace on her knee. She has no idea where she is or how she got there. The only exit is a huge steel door. It opens with a loud clang and Howard enters with a tray of food. “What are you going to do with me?” she demands. He responds, “I’m going to keep you alive.”
Michelle discovers Emmett, played by John Gallagher Jr. He is also being held in the underground bunker. Howard tells them that an attack has happened above, “Maybe chemical, maybe nuclear. It could be the Russkies or it could be Martians. Everyone outside of here is dead.”
The featurettes highlight the 10- by 50-foot long bunker design; lighting design from cinematographer Jeff Cutter, who bathed each room in a different color. Michelle’s room received warm tones, while Howard’s has a cold blue-gray; the main living space rotated between a fluorescent vibe for day and warm during night hours. Additional highlights include costume design, showing Michelle’s hazmat suit made of duct tape and a shower curtain; special effects, which uses an excavator’s gear to make a car rotate, and the first-rate sound effects, which heighten suspense.
Even though “Cloverfield Lane” was mastered in 2K from the original 6K files and upconverted to 4K, it’s a good upgrade from the original 2016 Blu-ray release. The brief aerial view over Michelle’s car and wide shots in the main quarters of Howard’s decked out bunker get the biggest boost in clarity. Plus, contrast levels are more striking with deeper blacks and brighter highlights produced from the HDR-10 base and the more controlled Dolby Vision HDR. In the majority of the scenes the color toning is similar to the Blu-ray.
The 4K and Blu-ray are both coded with Dolby Atmos’ all-encompassing soundtrack for the most active experience. Sound effects from a spacecraft rumbling above the bunker and the slamming of a massive steel door get the biggest kick to height speakers and subwoofer. Dialogue and music score are perfectly balanced from the center, left and right, and surround speakers. We were not disappointed.
“10 Cloverfield Lane” is clever and tight – the perfect combination for a 4K thrill ride from your favorite chair.
- Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer