Possibly the best way to start this review is to say: go see this movie. Cloverfield is produced by J.J. Abrams of Lost and Alias fame, and also the director of the upcoming new Star Trek movie. The inspiration for Cloverfield is that America has never really had an equivalent to a Godzilla-style story; Abrams supposedly came up with the idea while shopping with his son in Japan. Abrams is credited saying:
“…we need our own monster, and not King Kong, King Kong’s adorable. I wanted something that was just insane and intense.”
The movie is filmed as if through a hand-held camera that has been recovered in New York city, and focuses on a small group of friends and the events that unfold around them. Many people may avoid the movie assuming it will be too scary based upon the trailer, but rest assured it is light on the scary and intensely high on action, suspense, and drama. The story is incredibly simple and stays grounded firmly in reality as far as any monster movie could, while all of the acting is spectacular and you really become attached to the characters.
One of our big concerns was that the camera would be too shaky trying to emulate a hand-held kind of style, much like the Bourne Supremacy which had us feeling sick after walking out of the theater, so we decided to sit further back in the theater and this really seemed to help. A few minutes in we didn’t even notice the camera anymore except for the few times it was emphasized by the camera-man falling down or being knocked over. One of the funniest aspects to the way the movie is filmed is that the character holding the camera is named Hud (short for Hudson), a nice joke that only a small percentage of people who see the movie will really get as it references the heads-up display (HUD) that you see in first-person videogames.
Cloverfield displays an excellent balance between sci-fi and disaster movie, while the entire beginning to the movie focuses on the characters and their relationships it ends before you start feeling like it has gone on too long, and everything from the beginning serves to add to later events. Once the action has started things carry on at a frantic but gradual pace, and much like I Am Legend the movie refuses to show anything which doesn’t belong and needlessly make the movie longer than an hour and half.
The best way to see this movie is to not go in expecting a huge moral story, or any award winning dialogue, but to go in ready to enjoy a thrilling piece of cinema that pulls you into a disaster zone.