Review: Cloverfield is Big Fun at the Theater

February 5, 2008 at 10:37 pm Leave a comment

Cloverfield Movie Online


The film-it-yourself YouTube generation has inspired its first monster movie in Cloverfield, a short, intense, and scary flick that plays out the way Godzilla would have if it had been shot with a bystander’s camcorder.That is the central conceit of the film, which was produced by J.J. Abrams (mastermind of TV’s Lost), written by frequent collaborator Drew Goddard, and directed by Matt Reeves. Someone is videotaping the events at a going-away party for a friend when a giant something-or-other attacks the city. We see only what the video camera sees, the footage apparently having been discovered by rescuers or clean-up crews after the fact.

Call it a gimmick if you must, but it works. Since we only know what the camera-wielder and his friends know, we’re as terrified and nervous as they are. The scenario calls for naturalistic, improvised-sounding dialogue, too, which is rendered with complete authenticity by the small group of mostly unknown actors. In short, there is very little about the film to suggest it’s not exactly what it claims to be. If it weren’t for the dearth of news reports about New York City being attacked by a giant monster, you’d accept the film as a documentary.

The footage comes from a night in May when a group of twentysomethings are celebrating their friend Rob (Michael Stahl-David) and his new job in Japan. Rob’s brother Jason (Mike Vogel) has thrown the party and put their comic-relief pal Hud (T.J. Miller) in charge of getting video testimonials from everyone. Jason’s girlfriend Lily (Jessica Lucas) is there; so is a girl named Marlena (Lizzy Caplan) whom Hud has a crush on — and so is Beth (Odette Yustman), Rob’s long-time friend and one-time hookup who has shown up at the party with another guy.

With those basic relationships established, we get to the heart of things when explosions and fires suddenly rock lower Manhattan. Through Hud’s camera we see panic in the streets as buildings collapse and the Statue of Liberty’s head comes soaring in from the harbor. Hud continues to film as much as he can, realizing immediately that people will want a document of this.

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