Movie Review: Cloverfield

Mike Farrell

With one of the most frustratingly cryptic viral marketing campaigns in history, the media world has been abuzz with speculation about J.J. Abrams’ movie “Cloverfield.”

Told entirely from the perspective of a handheld camera, the film begins at the going away party for Rob (Michael Stahl-David), a twenty-something businessman who has accepted a job in Japan. Supporting characters include Hud (T.J. Miller), the cameraman and impromptu narrator, Rob’s brother, Jason (Mike Vogel), his sister-in-law Lily (Jessica Lucas), random party guest Marlena (Lizzy Caplan), and mandatory love interest Beth (Odette Yustman).

The beauty about “Cloverfield” is that virtually none of this matters, as all of the characters’ lives are put on hold once a 500 foot monster starts ravaging New York. The relationship between Rob and Beth serves as a minor subplot, but overall the film is just the group’s attempt to escape Manhattan alive.

The monster itself is handled in a surprisingly tasteful manner, revealing no more than is necessary at any given time. It is never shown in its entirety, a wise decision that makes each second it’s actually on screen all the more exciting. Its origin is never explained except for one subtle hint in the final scene, but surprisingly this detail never feels necessary.

Another huge contributing factor to the success of “Cloverfield” lies in its believability. Other than a few obvious instances of CGI, the film feels terrifyingly real, as if the viewer took the tape straight from the camera and started watching it. The shakiness and rough editing may bother some, but by filming in this style the chaos of the situation is perfectly captured. With a cast of virtually no-name actors, it truly feels like these are just ordinary people stuck in a situation far beyond their control.

Our Rating (out of 5): ****