movie film review | chris tookey


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  Cloverfield Review
Tookey's Rating
6 /10
Average Rating
6.00 /10
Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogel, Odette Yustman
Full Cast >

Directed by: Matt Reeves
Written by: Drew Goddard

Released: 2008
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 85

Cloverfield sounds reassuringly pastoral, but turns out to be nerve-janglingly urban. Set in Manhattan, it is about a going-away party that goes awry. Rob (Michael Stahl-David) is an unappealing yuppie about to take up a lucrative post in Japan. His celebration with friends comes to an abrupt end when thereís an earthquake, accompanied by what look like fireballs. As the party spills on to the streets, the terrors begin.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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The trouble with most big, special effects movies is that they donít feel real. Itís easy to sit back and admire the skill that went into Jurassic Park or the recent Hollywood Godzilla, without truly suspending our disbelief or feeling intimately involved.

Modern monster movies also have to contend with the very real horror that most of us felt witnessing the events of 9/11. They were most frightening when it wasnít clear yet who was attacking the west, or why.

Cloverfield is a clever Ė some would say, cynical - attempt by producer J.J. Abrams (Lost), director Matt Reeves and writer Drew Goddard to evoke memories of 9/11 in a way thatís thrilling but safe. Their film has become a number one box office hit in the States, and I think it will do the same here.

It conforms to the template of many other horror films by having a number of physically attractive but poorly delineated young people killed off, in no particular order. And it pinches the idea from The Blair Witch Project of having all the events shot from the point-of-view of a video camera. The unsteady results may at times engender motion sickness, but it does make the arrival of monsters to trash Manhattan and savage the cast all the more authentic.

The film has faults. The initial setting-up of the characters takes too long, and they arenít very interesting. The dialogue is banal, bordering on braindead, and I lost count of how many times someone screamed ďO my Gahd!Ē or ďWeíve gotta get outa here, man!Ē

Still, people probably arenít at their most articulate when running for their lives or trying to avoid being crushed by a giant foot. And the movie really does sound and look like actuality footage.

Not all the behaviour is plausible. On several occasions I found myself wondering why the friends were going to rescue someone who might already be dead. I was equally unsure why the heroine didnít jettison her high heels when attempting to climb a 57-floor building. And I couldnít help but admire the battery life of that video camera.

Cloverfield never discloses where the monster is from, or the nature of its grievance. Maybe itís an enraged investor in Wall Street shares. Still, it does create some spectacular damage, including the destruction of the Brooklyn bridge and the decapitation of the Statue of Liberty.

The film lacks the polish, characterisation and narrative neatness of Spielbergís War of the Worlds, but it does convey a convincing atmosphere of panic and helplessness. Itís a creature feature for our times: Youtube-zilla.

Incidentally, donít be baffled by the title Cloverfield. It has no relevance to anything in the movie: itís the name of the Santa Monica boulevard where the production had its offices.

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