A group of friends gather in downtown Manhattan to hold a surprise party for Rob Hawkins who is departing to take up a vice presidency in Japan. Hud is given the job of recording everything on a camcorder. But as gossip spreads around the room that Rob and Beth McIntyre were sleeping together, there suddenly comes news that a tanker has overturned in the harbour. As they rush onto the roof to see, there is a massive explosion. Out on the street, the head of the Statue of Liberty comes crashing past and then a vast monster is seen smashing buildings aside. Rob and a handful of others try to survive amidst the mass devastation as the military cordon the area off, evacuate people and try to fight back against the monster. Rob takes the others on a dangerous journey across town to rescue Beth from where she is trapped injured inside her apartment building.
Directed by: Matt Reeves
. Starring: Lizzy Caplan
, Jessica Lucas
, T.J. Miller
, Michael Stahl-David
, Mike Vogel
, Odette Annable
, Anjul Nigam
, Margot Farley
, Theo Rossi
, Brian Klugman
, Kelvin Yu
, Liza Lapira
, Lili Mirojnick
So here it is, after months of speculation and hype, Cloverfield has finally arrived in theatres. And the wait just may have been well worth the price of admission.
A plot synopsis this late in the game may sound a bit like overkill, but suffice to say, a gigantic creature appears in New York City, and lays waste to it. Meanwhile, a group of friends, who happen to have a videocamera, record their point-of-view of the attack as they try to make it out of the city alive.
What is surprising about Cloverfield is how it lacks any real depth or three-dimensional motivations for any of the characters (including the monster), but it draws you in anyway. It works in a way of saying very little, but packing a lot of strength into the things it does say. You feel an enigmatic sting right after the movie gets going, and it never manages to subside. It leaves a lot to the imagination, but at the same time, it works in so much that you fail to notice the many discrepancies and minimal plot details that would otherwise destroy a film.
The storyline itself is heavily convoluted, and at times, melodramatic at best. I realize that the subplot of the party is integral to getting the group together (and the explanation for the camera), and I realize that some of these characters needed to be more than just a walking cliché waiting to get killed, but it really seems like a bit of work could have been done for them. The pathos for their situation is there (and their varying heartbreaks, including one powerfully done scene on a train platform), but the film never seems to take a crack at really making us feel for them. A lot of the dialogue exchanges between the characters are what drag the film down in its already blazingly fast running time, and could have easily been fixed up. They have their poetic moments, but they could all have had some work done (not to say that the adrenaline saturated performances here are not terrifically done as it is).
Instead of focusing on the characters so much, the film's key strength is what is going on in the background. The satire and political allegories are just stunning in more than a handful of occasions. All at once the film draws on xenophobic ideals drilled into us by 911, old monster movies of yore (especially Godzilla) and the war on terror. The film even has a sequence that borders on being a recreation of 911, bringing the true realism and fear of the characters home to the audience. Seeing some of these scenes are downright terrifying, and mainly because we have seen scenes just like them in real life. Hell, the film even toys with the actions of the current generation. Instead of running for their lives, a group of people take pictures of the fallen head of the Statue of Liberty with their camera phones, presumably to later post on Facebook or MySpace. It prods around with these ideals, and in the process, creates a film that is undoubtedly immediate, and belongs to the kids of 2008. It may feel a little too close in touch with its excellent Korean brethren The Host, but its uniqueness lends itself to being more than a copy.
And while some may write off the use of the handi-cam as a gimmick, it is what makes the film so enthralling and so strong. I had my doubts about the movie being entirely shot in this format, but as I watched it, I could not imagine it being nearly as powerful, or nearly as watchable if it were made with a standard film camera. Instead, the camera treats us into a sort of all-access pass, allowing the audience to feel as if they are a character themselves. And once the actual characters get running, the audience may feel like they are in for an endurance test as well. The edge of your seat mentality the film lends itself is more than enough to suggest that the film will get your blood pumping. It is not blazingly original, but for a suspense filled, mass-marketed, Hollywood film, it is definitely somewhat of a unique experience. Yes, the dizziness of some of the camera work is a bit jarring, and more often than not you may not be able to tell what is going on (and you will unlikely realize all the little things going on in the backgrounds of shot until it is too late), but these minor inconveniences only make for a more immediate and gratifying trip. The audience involvement tactic may not be for everyone, but is something that those who are willing to try, should.
What impressed me the most however was how great the monster itself looks. It never stays in one spot for long, but the fear and terror that grips the characters as they catch glimpses of it is just enough. For such a small budgeted film, I was expecting something a little less realistic. Instead, it looks authentic and scary enough to be more than just someone's nightmare. Describing it will ruin the fun (and watching it tear up New York is the real treat), but the short glimpses do not last all that long thankfully. I was a little less enthused about the smaller parasitic looking beings that show up halfway into the film (and in one shot, you can tell it is clearly CGI), but they still look very well done anyway.
Cloverfield is a flawed creation, but it is also very strong. Its enigmatic presence and genuine satire is something that monster movies tend to lack, but is quite hard hitting here. A little less melodrama could have made this terrifyingly and satisfyingly quick ride a whole lot less bumpy.
Review by DonFishies from the Internet Movie Database.