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Review: Cloverfield

Posted by palmer on 2008-01-21 10:45:47
Am I biased? Heck yeah. I dig J.J. Abrams stuff. His television shows, films and viral marketing plans are interesting. He knows how to use the tools of the new age.

I suppose I can say that I may spoil Cloverfield for you when you read ahead but at the same time, there’s nothing really to spoil. There’s no grand revelations. It’s a monster movie. But if you really don’t want to hear any word of the film at all before seeing it, stop reading now!

Cloverfield takes place in Manhattan where everyone is going to a party for their buddy Rob who is moving to Japan to work. In the first twenty minutes you get introduced to the main characters of the film at a party through the medium of a handheld videocamera which is taking footage of Rob’s friends so he can have the film when he goes to Japan. It’s standard fare throughout with the connections of the characters laid out before us and with some good humour spread out.

Then the insanity starts to happen when there is an earthquake and they go up to the roof to investigate and a building in the distance explodes and there is masses of shrapnel hitting their surroundings. Chaos ensues, everyone is running into the streets and up above something tears through a building and down on the street it comes to a stop - the head of the Statue of Liberty. Hello Escape from New York! Essentially, this is in the trailer so you aren’t getting spoiled with any details here.

The film then follows our ragtag team trying to escape the city in the midst of wondering what the heck is going on and running amongst the chaos of the army attacking a monster and the looters and general mayhem.

The film is all based from the point of view of one person’s video camera which made me feel sick at one point and I had to leave the theater to get some fresh air. Perhaps those with motion sickness should take some gravol.

I enjoyed the concept of the film in that it was a monster movie but from our viewpoint. It was very realistic in the emotions and the actions that would be occurring at the moment. I felt like I was part of the film running around with them.

I also loved the little societal commentary they made; for example when the head of the Statue of Liberty lands in the street everyone around it yanks out there cellular phone and snaps photos of it. We are living in a world where everything is documented and probably ending up on the Internet. It’s…strange. Instead of running the heck out of Dodge because everything around them is being destroyed, they pause for a moment to snap a photograph. This is essentially the main drive of the video camera operator as well as he says “Someone is going to want to see this after it’s done.”

Vero and I thoroughly enjoyed this film with the different take on the monster movies you’ve seen in the past. While I couldn’t handle the erratic filming of the scenes, it didn’t take away from the sheer amazing feeling of following this group of people trying to escape a city under attack by a monster.

Two sidenotes: For those who have seen the film, did you catch at the end what happens in behind the scene at Coney Island? I missed it but read about it on Wikipedia. That’s interesting. For those going to see the film, keep a close eye on the final scene of the movie and in particular, what happens in behind the people on the screen. I completely missed it.

Also, I enjoyed the fact that the film was shrouded in secrecy. JJ Abrams has stated that he finds the connected world we live in to take some of the magic away from films nowadays; in that everyone knows every little detail before even walking in to watch the film. I must agree on this point as I recollect The Blair Witch Project and I had no idea what the film was about until I saw it in the theatre. I think the magic would have been stolen from me if I knew stuff about it.

Lastly, my friend James commented on how he didn’t like how everything was wrapped up in one neat package at the end; as in, you don’t really find out much in terms of what the heck is attacking Manhattan. I personally love that. Too often do we see films that answer every little detail for us. I like how the film’s concept was more to capture the feeling of how you would be in a monster-torn city, rather than the story about the monster.