Movie Review for Cloverfield

Shaky, And Stirring


Action, Sci-fi, Thriller | PG | 1 hr 24 m
Paramount Pictures
It is almost difficult to give Cloverfield a rating. One has to acknowledge that this film probably isn’t for everybody; that in fact, some people will hear that it’s shot in the shaky cam style and immediately write it off. It isn’t hard to imagine that there are people who will walk out of the theater halfway through the movie, utterly and completely nauseated by the movement. After giving it much thought, however, it’s just too hard to fault this movie for such things. Cloverfield is one of the most exciting, most refreshing movie experiences in a long time.

We experience the film through the camera of Hud, who’s documenting the going-away party of his friend Rob, who’s leaving for Japan for work. During the party, Manhattan gets attacked by an unidentified creature. This creature devastates the island, and an evacuation is called. On the way across the Brooklyn Bridge, Rob gets a message from Beth, the long-time love of his life, and he decides that he has to go back and save her. Rob, Hud, and a couple more friends journey through a Manhattan danger zone, trying to find Beth, and trying to stay alive through an unprecedented disaster.

It’s a monster movie, but it’s unlike any monster movie we’ve seen before. It’s a monster movie taken from the ground-level, a story that emerges from the people who are usually stomped on in your average creature feature. These aren’t the scientists or the soldiers who are trying to figure out how to defeat the monster. It’s just a bunch of people who are trying to survive. It’s a reinvention of the genre, one that gives it a powerful immediacy. The film, with its Youtube-ish, shaky cam approach to filmmaking, really sticks in there with these people, and it lets you know them intimately. When somebody dies, it isn’t just collateral damage; it isn’t a faceless mass of deaths. It’s a personal loss. We’re right there in the middle of the city as it gets destroyed, right under the gaping maw of the unnamed beast that we can’t explain or understand. It’s a powerful new way to tell these stories, one that really takes advantage of the new possibilities of today’s technology.

What’s truly amazing about this film is how thematically sound it is. This is a pretty good script they’ve got, even if they really need one. There’s a depth to this script that isn’t immediately apparent, but reveals itself more and more upon reflection. And it works perfectly in conjunction with the filmmaking. Now, it is valid to dislike the shaky cam conceit, but if you do like it, this is by far one of the best uses of the shaky cam ever. The camera here is a character in itself, helping to bring us into the emotion of the moment. It gets knocked around and dropped and night-visioned and all sorts of things that a camera is actually subject to. And brilliantly, it leaves all the most horrible things to the imagination. There are people who aren’t going to like it, for sure, but I just can’t fault it. It’s just so well-done.

The acting is what it is. The cast does a good job of being young and good-looking and snippy and funny and annoying and terribly scared. It’s just exactly what the film needed. The film makes it easy to grow attached to these characters, and the actors just keep it real enough to work.

Cloverfield just works, overall. There’s just so much in it to enjoy, so much that elicits an emotion from the audience. It’s new and exciting and terribly well-made, and most of all, it’s incredibly fun. This movie is one heck of a ride, and despite my reservations, I can’t help but recommend it. Just remember to sit as far back as you can in the theater, and to not close your eyes if you get dizzy. It might just be worth the trouble.

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