Movie Review for Cloverfield (2008)

Click Poster to Purchase

Review #600 of 365
Movie Review of Cloverfield (2008) [PG-13] 90 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $12.00
Where Viewed: United Artists Denver Pavilions Stadium 15, Denver, CO
When Seen: 17 January 2008
Time: 11:59 pm
DVD Release Date: 22 April 2008 (click date to purchase or pre-order)
Film's Official WebsiteFilm's Trailer

Soundtrack: order the CD below

Directed by: Matt Reeves ("Felicity")
Written by: Drew Goddard ("LOST")

Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Lizzy Caplan (Love Is the Drug) • Jessica Lucas (The Covenant) • T.J. Miller ("Carpoolers") • Michael Stahl-David ("The Black Donnelleys") • Mike Vogel (The Deaths of Ian Stone) • Odette Yustman (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story) • Anjul Nigam ("Grey's Anatomy") • Margot Farley ("The Unit") • Theo Rossi ("Grey's Anatomy") • Brian Klugman ("CSI: Crime Scene Investigation") • Kelvin Yu ("Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip") • Lili Mirojnick (Domino) • Ben Feldman ("Living with Fran")

Click for 'Review Lite' [a 150-word or less review of this film]
Click to see photos from the Premiere of Cloverfield
Click to read the spoiler points for Cloverfield

10:15 PM 2 July 2007 Hello. I just got home from seeing Transformers, which was amazing. But, one thing I don't want to forget was a trailer I saw for some new movie coming out soon. It was scary and eerie. The Statue of Liberty's head goes flying. That's all I know. It was crazy. Stay tuned.

2:17 AM 18 January 2008Hello again. Crazy. Just got back from seeing Cloverfield directed by Matt Reeves from a script by "LOST" meister Drew Goddard. Actually, there were more people in the theatre tonight for the 11:59 p.m. showing than there were for HP: OotP or for Transformers for that matter. The mood of the audience before the trailers was palpable. Though, admittedly, it wasn't clear how many were there to see Cloverfield and how many were there to see the much-anticipated sneak trailer for the new J.J. Abrams new Star Trek film. As the trailers clicked by, the audience got increasingly quiet until the Leonard Nimoy's voice rang through the loudspeakers. There was a roar. Sorry to report that the trailer gives little other than an assurance of a December release date for the film. The overly expositive trailer for Jumper, however, either gives away too much or was great at increasing anticipation for that film out mid-February. Then, there was dead silent anticipation. No film has received this much Internet hype since Snakes on a Plane—oops, we know how that turned out—disaster. The opening sequence reveals that what we are about to see is a video now property of the U.S. Government and taken in a location formerly known as "Central Park". In that, Cloverfield reveals itself to be a film in which, try as you might, try harder to pay attention to the small details such as this seemingly throwaway segment as it actually reveals the ending despite the idea that you shouldn't or wouldn't give away the ending to your own film before it starts. But, will you remember this by the end? The film banks on the notion that you won't and not only that, but you won't pay attention to any of the small details along the way. And, it doesn't plan to make it easy for you because this isn't just going to be any ordinary videotape you're about to see, this is going to be one filmed by the kids of the Blair Witch Project. Sorry, everyone is probably going to say that; but it's true. It's also probably one of the films greatest flaws and simultaneous attributes. So, again, when you see the film, if you haven't already, pay attention to the tape.

2:31 AM 18 January 2008
So, just a quickie on the set up for the story. The tape rolls and you should be quick to fathom that you are watching the tape. Pay attention to the dates and times which are only present intermittently—recall that cameras tend to put in dates and time only on starts and stops not pauses. So, the camera, which has the world's longest-lasting battery—minor inconsistency but one that will bother the technically astute—is in the hands of Jason Hawkins (Mike Vogel) who films his apartment and his semi-awakening girlfriend, Lily Ford (Jessica Lucas). This is to be the big day of Jason's brother, Rob's, going away party. Rob (Michael Stahl-David) has been promoted to V.P. of some Japanese company and is moving from Manhattan to Tokyo—home of Godzilla. Jason films the two on errands for the party, for some unknown reason, and as the tape plays, there are some clips of what was on the tape already—seems that Rob had taped something on the tape before. Seems also that Jason didn't realize this when he started filming. Hopefully it wasn't anything too important to Rob. Lily wants Jason to film testimonials or good-byes from the guests during the party as a gift to Rob, but Jason thinks he'll have better things to do so he Tom Sawyer's the task off onto his pal, Hudson 'Hud' Platt (T.J. Miller), which is necessary for the film to work, by suggesting this girly he's sort of interested in, Marlena Diamond (Lizzy Caplan) is going to be at the party. So, the party starts up, and it's clear that Hud is taking his role to document the party very seriously as he's filming everything top to bottom and all around, wavy, and incoherently at times—get the Dramamine®. Rob asks Jason if he thinks that Beth (Odette Yustman) will be at the party. Jason's not sure, but he thinks Lily probably invited her. Sure enough shows up, but with a date, Travis (Ben Feldman). There are some sparks flying and Lily lets everyone…er…Hud…er…everyone in on a little secret about Rob and Beth. Beth ends up leaving with Travis. Her disappointment is obvious. As Jason tries to comfort his brother on the balcony with Hud hovering about 'documenting' everything, all hell breaks loose on the island. It feels like an earthquake. They scamper to the roof to get a better look and end up realizing that everyone should evacuate the building. On the streets there is chaos and mayhem followed shortly by the crashing of the head of Lady Liberty in the middle of the street squishing people beneath—not shown—there's surprisingly little blood and gore in this film. The rest of the video, as it we see it, focuses, or not, on the hours between roughly 12:30 a.m. and 6:47 a.m. that night with intermittent footage of that day, back in April, when Beth and Rob went to Coney Island.

2:59 AM 18 January 2008
Passing out the kudos, it's about time somebody took advantage of the dredge of January and turned it into an event picture month. Why should July be the only month for event films like this? Brilliant, less competition, and audiences with nothing much else to do in the coldest days of winter in the USA…why not! Second, while the idea for the story and the resulting film which is at once both a disaster film and a monster movie, all filmed from the point of view of those living through the attack as opposed to cameras looking down on the action presupposes some degree of brilliance simply for attempting to make this film and have it work, there simply were some logistics that logically get in to way of this being real—and that's not to say the film isn't impacting, accomplished, nor 60 minutes of heart-pounding, gut wrenching suspense. Rather, who in their right mind wouldn't have gotten rid of the camera long before Hud does—he actually holds on and films to the bitter end as if his life depended on it. The excuse offered up is that he believes somehow, someday the tape will be important to someone. So, even in his own darkest hour, he presses on capturing every moment and actually the only moment where we ever see the insidious and malevolent creature terrorizing the city. Next on the "hard to comprehend or believe" list is the motivation for the rest of the film, really, is Rob's attempt to rescue Beth who's become trapped in her apartment. Not since Adventures in Babysitting has such a daring scene been accomplished by mere mortals on the outside of skyscraper for in order to rescue her, Rob, Hud, Lily, and Marlena will have to brave all elements of conflict just to get to her building and find it now leaning like the Tower of Pisa into the building next to it. Well, as much as Rob might think he loves Beth, and as close as this group of friends is, there is literally no logic to their decisions to try to rescue Beth in the midst of a virtual war zone.

3:16 AM 18 January 2008
I just came running in from the balcony. There were loud sounds. Oh, never mind. It was just the dishwasher. I forgot I started it when I sat down to write. I'm ok. Not to worry. So, the bad news about Drew Goddard's story is that it's got some inconsistencies in the motivations for the characters that don't add up really to the plot partially because the chosen format does not afford sufficient background. It's hard to care that much who of these people might get 'eaten' by the monster when they come across as vague and superficial in the first place. There emotional states are great as they are none the same—probably as real people would be. Some are in denial and others a bit too brave for logic. Unless Beth is carrying Rob's child, though, he seems a bit out of whack and over the top in his willingness to risk his life and everyone else's on saving her. The outcome of which proves, therefore, all the more ironic. Which is one of the great pluses of the film. As much as the story has problems and a magic, ever-lasting battery that keeps on powering the videocam despite even being used to run the spot light on the cam for quite a while, some special night vision mode, and all without charging for a time total of over seven hours, and a magic video tape that, similarly is able to record…well…actually, the film is only 90 minutes…which given that the time passed exceed it, what did Hud fail to record…all night long, and an unevenness to the characters, there's not a moment you won't sit transfixed unable to even look down for a second to make sure the popcorn bag into which you are reaching is actually your own or that you didn't just grab your neighbor's Mr. Pibb® which explains why your Coke® tasted funny. Likewise, the dialogue, especially the nearly always-inappropriate commentary by T.J. (ie. he babbles about homeless people being set on fire in the subway tunnel at one point) is packed with surprises both good and bad. Lines worth repeating and ones right out of a poorly done, late-night, low-budget horror film. And this same appeal applies to the cast as well. Mostly unknowns which, in this case does not mean they have little or no entries next to their names in, the cast mostly looks like real people not stars caught up in an event film to provide income for their favorite Sundance features. Their 'thinner' résumés, however, do show up a bit here and again, especially, unfortunately most often in lead character Rob. Michael Stahl-David wavers in his ability to convince anyone that Rob's either totally illogical in his drive to rescue Beth or totally head over heels in love with her. Sometimes its like he's trying to convince himself actor to character more than character to character that what he's saying makes good sense. And, the whole thing would have fallen flat apart had it not been for an Army guy who breaks all protocols, tells the civilians the big plan for the final solution to the 'monster problem'--something to do with bringing down the hammer—lets them out of protective quarantine, points them in the general direction of Beth's building, and gives them a pick-up location and time so that they can escape the 'hammer'.

3:36 AM 18 January 2008
Eventually, when it's finally over, your heart will be pounding. Your audience mates will be in various states of mixed euphoria or complete and utter dismay. Unlike when I first saw Blair Witch, nobody stood up in this auditorium shouting that they'd just wasted an hour of their life and they wanted their money back. There was, however, dismay at nothing more than an eerie sound and barely discernible sound bite after the credits. The film is definitely not for everyone. If jittery, handycam point of view cinematography bugs you, well, sit this one out. If you need to see the creature to believe in the creature, again, skip this round. You do get to see the creature, sort of, and it's minions, but as this is a video made by innocent bystanders of the event, there are no off screen scenes of explanation.

You'll either love or hate this film, but you'll probably have to see it to be sure which.
The ending, in fact, will prove to be mischievous to some as it will leave most things unexplained, especially, but not limited to how the tape survived the hammer dropping in the first place to be archived by the U. S. Government and speaking of that, however the tape got out of their hands and shown in movie theatres for all to see will serve as the final mystery—if not why on earth they wouldn't have edited out the non-essential parts like five minutes of Hud focusing in and out on Marlena? If, on the other hand, you can forgive and forget, try to get into the idea, be scared for the sake of the epic proportions and gravity of this thing happening, pay attention to small details that others might miss, appreciate that this film was not actually shot entirely on a handycam, but had to be made to look like it with seamless integration of incredible CGI effects while still maintaining most of the dramatic tension without both the creature and the effects, then you might become an instant fanboy or fangirl of not only Cloverfield; but, Trekker or not, even J.J. Abrams next film project, Star Trek XI. You'll either love or hate this film, but you'll probably have to see it to be sure which.

Alternate Posters
Click to Purchase

Send This Review To a Friend

Related Products from
Other Projects Featuring Cloverfield (2008)
Cast Members
Lizzy CaplanJessica LucasT.J. Miller
Michael Stahl-DavidMike VogelOdette Yustman
Anjul NigamMargot FarleyTheo Rossi
Brian KlugmanLili Mirojnick
Matt Reeves
Drew Goddard

Review-lite Cloverfield (2008) [max of 150 words]
Director Matt Reeves delivers a January wake up call with this mysterious event film. No longer a mystery, the Internet hype is over. The secret is out. A creature attacks Manhattan leaving a wake of destruction in its path. The film is made to look as though its shot on a home videocam by one member of a group of 20-somethings which yields a singularly unsteady cinematic experience not to be watched by those made easily sea-sick. The film is either an unqualified masterpiece or a redundant disaster film depending on your point of view. You might just have to see it to find out which it is for you.

Send This Review To a Friend

No comments: