Directed by Matt Reeves.
Starring Michael Stahl-David, Lily Ford, T J Miller, Lizzy Caplan, Mike Vogel, Odette Yustman. 85 mins.
Wow. I realise I’m employed to attempt something a touch more substantial than that in the way of critical analysis, but really when you get down to it “wow” is the only term that matters when you’re talking about mainstream film entertainment.
Cloverfield has one of those of perfect movie conceits – startlingly original and yet blindingly obvious. It’s Godzilla in the style of You’ve Been Framed. Purporting to be found footage in possession of the US military, it’s one man’s camcorder recording of a friend’s farewell party that is interrupted when New York comes under attack from a big monster.
The teaser trailer - that ended with the head of the Statue of Liberty being hurled across the city and landing in the street almost at the feet of the protagonists - was such a perfectly realised and self contained piece of cinema that it didn’t necessarily provoke much desire to see the actual film. You assumed that there would be no way they could match it but the entirety delivers absolutely on that promise. Believe the hype – it’s like a Blair Witch Product where something happens.
It is a perfect synthesis of indie and blockbuster. It may be all done on handheld shaky cam and cost just $25 million to make but this is a Big movie. The difference is its almost elliptical approach. The monster is only partially revealed and the protagonists flit around the perimeters of the main events - it’s a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead of King Kong movies.
Ultimately the film is novel rather than original, an exercise is delivering familiar thrills from a new angle. It’s a single linear narrative, following a group of young good looking protagonists, who frequently behave irrationally in order to keep the plot going. It delivers the same old thrills - races against the clock and nick of time lucky escapes. Only the intensity is different.
It is all, of course, 911 porn of a fairly shameless and tasteless nature; whether that is a sign of the terminal decadence or defiant resilience of Western culture is a big discussion. Either way, expect film makers to be ripping this off for years to come.