Move Review: Cloverfield

Yeah, I know, this is two months late …. I still have Christmas presents I have to send out. Sue me! I’m stuck at the library because I locked myself out of my house. Of course there will be spoilers. don’t blame me if you read on and haven’t seen the film, and realize I’ve given it away.

It’s a great film, if somewhat not what anyone would expect. First off, it is a monster movie in the tradition of the monster being more like Gojira or King Kong vs. say Dracula of Frankenstein. Beyond that, to call this a “monster movie” would be like saying that “Star Wars” was a western; more or less, in name only.

Ostensibly, hte film is shot almost entirely on a hand held camcorder, and profiles some twentysomethings in New York as they race for their lives through the city to escape a really big mo-fo monster tearing through Manhattan. To borrow from Hitchcock, the monster is a McGuffin, which is to say that while the monster pushes the action, in some ways it is the least important part of the film. The story clearly centers on the cast as they are running for their lives and trying to survive.

The film could have been made with virtually any disaster (bombs planted throughout the city, rising flood water, meteor shower, a volcano rising from under Manhattan (oops … tried that already in L.A, aand it didn’t work), etc. The monster just adds a twist on the plot. In fact, the film is largely more a straight forward drama than it would be a work of science fiction.

There is really only one grotesque moment in the film, and even that is left mostly to the imagination. The big monster in fact sheds off smaller monsters which, should they bite you, cause you to start behaving as if you have contracted hemorragic (sp?) fever, killing you rather shortly. This is not actually shown on screen, but is shown behind a hospital screen.

In the end, almost the entire cast dies, including the principal characters that are the center of this group of friends. It is hardly an uplifting, inspiring film. The most tragic moment occurs after the lead character’s brother is killed on a bridge when the monster attacks. The group finally takes shelter in a subway station, when the lead character gets a cell phone call ….. its his mother, and you wuickly realize that he has some really bad news to pass on.

Unlike Titanic, a vile film that goes out of your way to manipulate the audience with contrivences to make you care about the characters, and then reduces the loss of thousands to a punch line, this disaster-romance tells it like it is. The action (by action I msotly mean here the movement of hte plot) occurs so fast, that there is no time to manipulate the characters into situations that make you care any more or any less about them. Since the film is told as a flashback (a government review of the videotape discovered in “what used to be known as Central Park”), it is interspersed with video taken before the attack, and allows you to see that these people, placed into a surreal race for their life, are no tall too different from any of us. In a sense, that may be the message of the film: in your comfortable, day-to-day life, things can be very comforting and taken for granted; put yourself in a life-or-death situation, and things change. For most Americans, this we’re in the former group every day of our lives, but for a large percentage of the world’s population, every day can be more like the latter.


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