10 Cloverfield Lane stuns with Small Cast
The wife and I got to see 10 Cloverfield Lane (a movie which scared her and left her feeling very uncomfortable, but I enjoyed immensely). If you have not seen the film, I fully recommend you watch it. Don’t worry, this article contains no spoilers and is safe to read whether you have seen the movie or have not because this short post is not about 10CL in particular, but about my favorite type of movie to watch (when they are done well), and that is a film which features a very small cast and a very small space.
Of course, there is a draw to huge expensive productions and green screen action block busters, but there is something very alluring about having only 1-5 characters in a situation and not knowing who is going to help and hurt the hero. I have come to find that if you would like to make a great movie with a small cast you need to nail 2 main things: Great acting and tense writing.
Well, this seems like an obvious key to the success of any movie, great acting is the backbone on which all good films are built, right? Not exactly. How many times have you been watching a movie and feel that there is 1 actor who sticks out like a sore thumb because they are not on the same level as the other characters? I know that I feel that hit more times that not while watching a film I’ve never seen before. When there are limited people for the audience to pay attention to, the actors must be able to convey more depth and conflict than a normal film because people relate to people, and if we took 10 Cloverfield Lane as an example, there are really only 3 characters that it is possible to relate to. If the audience is only give 3 choices in a feature-length film, all 3 of those actors need to give a stunning performance and provide enough complexity to keep the viewers invested.
Conflict and tension is the reason nearly any story is told, if there was no deviation from a normal day and no problem to solve, there would be no story to tell. When you have less characters and less physical space in which to tell the story, the writing of dialog becomes crucial to building uncertainty in the audiences’ minds. Taking 10CL again as an example, as mentioned before there are only 3 real characters and there are maybe 4 or 5 rooms which the characters can be in and interact with. Clearly by numbers alone there are less possibilities than in your typical film. That’s why the dialog has to be crisp, open-ended, combative, distrusting, and cryptic at times, to keep the viewer hanging on every word. Considering the resources a story teller has with a limited cast and space, dialog is going to be the main focus of the scenes which means it better be captivating.
Other great movies with a minimal cast, minimal space, or both, worth checking out are: