Monday, January 05, 2009

Cloverfield

Disappointment and surprise. There's nothing like the let down of watching a film I've waited for with high hopes and felt disappointed when it's over because it hasn't lived up to the anticipation (Synecdoche, New York for example). On the fun flip side is seeing a film with no expectations, it may even have the preconception of not being any good--and then get proved wrong. It's a satisfying rarity when that occurs. Cloverfield is one of those times.

Cloverfield was a complete surprise and is just an entertaining genre picture. It takes a Blair Witch gimmick of P.O.V. filmmaking (the entire film consists of footage shot on a video camera) and ratchets up the tension and effects. I'm not keen on this kind of P.O.V. storytelling but in this case it really creates an intimacy between the people on tape and us as viewers as they try to survive the mayhem. A bond is created that might have been lacking in a traditional film/story/camera set up.

The movie begins at a surprise going away party with lots of celebrating and reveling. That is until explosions, power loss and mass chaos in the streets hits them. A group of some kind of giant alien monsters are obliterating Manhattan and its all told on shaky cam as they try to make it out of the city with each other still alive.

Cloverfield is well done. It's tense, gripping, realistic (as realistic as could be considering these are humongous, murderous aliens attacking New York City!), romantic, cohesive, suspenseful and very entertaining. Produced by J.J. Abrams and directed by Matt Reeves, I'm going to pay them the ultimate compliment for a film like this--it's the sort of thing I'd imagine Steven Spielberg doing if he was just starting out and in his 20s. In fact, I actually liked this a lot more than Spielberg's recent War of the Worlds.

Cloverfield is a genre film. A very effective one at that. It takes an age old premise--alien attack!--and uses the P.O.V. to create an intimacy that completely pulls you in. When you watch a couple hundred films a year, disappointments are inevitable but surprises and shockers like Cloverfield make it worth all the letdowns.

4 comments:

BB said...

Alas, for those of us who suffer from motion-sickness...P.O.V. is the kiss of death! I didn't mind missing out on the Blair Witch, but I would have liked to see Cloverfield.

Replicant said...

I thought Blair Witch was over rated actually...I don't think this was as over the top on the motion--maybe because they had more money and used better equipment? At times you forget you are watching a camera for this one. You should give it a try and if it moves too much--stop. You might be able to make it all the way through.

Dan said...

I really liked it too. I also saw it with no expectations or preconceptions, and so really enjoyed myself. If I'd been driven ito a frenzy by the hype and saw it when it first came out however I think I'd have been disappointed.

Replicant said...

Dan--Finding a film you love when there are NO expectations is the best sort of gift in film going. Such was the case with me and CLOVERFIELD.