Directed by: Matt Reeves
Written by:Drew Goddard
Starring: Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogel, Lizzy Caplan, Odette Yustman, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller
Released: January 17, 2008
Grade: A-

I’ve been looking forward to this film for a long time.  When the teaser trailer was first released 6 months ago, I was intrigued.  It gave away very little of the story (which is unusual) and it didn’t even tell us what the film was called (which is unheard of).  A second trailer released a few months later revealed the title but not much else in terms of plot detail.

It’s a bold marketing strategy.  There’s a risk that viewers will be turned away because they have no idea what the film is about.  Alternatively, it might be a huge success because it stands out and will get people talking.

The person getting all the credit for Cloverfield is J.J. Abrams, the man who developed the Lost television show.  There’s a similarity in both productions in that they conceal information from the audience and take their time to provide answers to interesting questions.  I like Abrams’ style.

Now then, how do I describe this movie?  It’s Godzilla meets the Blair Witch Project.  As soon as it begins, you’ll realise this isn’t your ordinary action blockbuster.  We are told that the footage we are about to see came from a video camera which was discovered in Central Park in New York City.  The tape starts playing…

It begins at a party.  A young guy named Rob is going to live in Japan and his friends have put together a surprise farewell bash.  Heaps of people are there and they all seem to be having a good time.  One of Rob’s best friends, Hud, is capturing the party with a video camera so that Rob can take it with him to remember them all by.

Out of nowhere, the ground starts to shake and a loud roar is heard.  They head up onto the roof of the apartment block to see what’s going on.  No one can believe what they’re seeing - a giant monster is destroying New York City!  It is knocking down buildings and killing any human in its path.  As Rob and his party guests try to flee the city, Hud keeps the camera rolling.  His justification is that “people are gonna want to know how it all went down”.

As you might already have gathered, it is from this video camera that we see the entire movie.  It’s a terrific idea – it feels like we’re there and in the moment.  We get a true sense of the confusion and panic that has gripped New York City.  The camera is constantly shaking and whilst we don’t always see things clearly, we sense the tension from the noises in the background and the fear in people’s voices.  I was on the edge of my seat.

My appreciation for the film’s original style will not be shared by all.  I’m sure there’ll be plenty of viewers frustrated by the shocking camerawork and the lack of detail regarding the monster itself.  My response to that is that we’ve seen Godzilla-type movies done many times before.  Instead of rehashing an old formula, the filmmakers have tried to do something new.  Still, it’s up to you as to whether you want to see it.

I have a few qualms about some parts of the story such as how they were able to evacuate the city so easily and why there weren’t more dead bodies everywhere.  I’m also a little curious as to how Rob was able to keep his camera so steady (given his nerves) and how it was always switched on at the perfect time.

The good news is that these negatives don’t even come close to outweighing the positives.  The hype has been justified.  Cloverfield is cool.