(2008, USA)

Director: Matt Reeves
Written by: Drew Goddard
Cast: Blake Lively, Mike Vogel, Lizzy Caplan, Michael Stahl-David

Running Time: 85 mins.

The team behind TV-series Lost, Alias and Felicity brings us a cinema experience that features much of the mystery and excitement that made those series such huge TV hits.

Cloverfield has been shrouded in mystery for obvious reasons. In the short trailer we could only see some realistic-looking disaster footage. What the disaster was, remained unknown until the movie premiered last month. Word of mouth did the rest. A giant monster attacking Manhattan? The best disaster movie since…well ever? Cinema-goers rushed to see it in swarms. After all, it sucks to be clueless when everybody’s discussing this phenomenon, doesn’t it?

Smart promotion, that’s for sure. But is this really a good movie? Well let’s just say the hype is well justified. In it’s short running time it manages to provide more thrills than a whole season of Lost. There is a brief introduction where we meet a group of friends. They’re having a goodbye party for one of them and videotape the events taking place. About ten minutes later the disaster starts. Buildings start collapsing and people are running scared. The group go outside to check it out and get thrown into a whirlwind of catastrophes.

Off course, one of the group members keeps on filming all the time. Even when he and his friends are attacked in a dark subway tunnel by some small insect-looking creatures. That the supposedly amateurish footage looks so sharp and covers exactly the right material is just something we’ll have to accept. After all, we are part of the disaster and don’t have time to think. The actors are, just as in Lost, model-like pretty and sophisticated. Producer J.J. Abrams should go find himself a new casting agency. The performances are good, but at least some more ‘real’ people would help the viewer to care more about their fate than with this fashionable bunch.

The Blair Witch Project hyped a style of film-making that has since been put to good and less good use. Cloverfield is an example of how it should be done. The images and soundtrack put the viewer right into the action. With its steady-cam shots and well-hidden special effects it brilliantly succeeds in making the audience part of the disaster. We are not merely observing Tom Cruise battling aliens in War of the Worlds. We have to stay focused on the screen all the time or we’ll get crushed or eaten alive.

The metaphor for 9-11 is striking. We have heard these screams of panic, and seen images of this ash-grey destruction many times before in news coverage. Typically for the team behind this movie, there is no explanation for the events taking place. It doesn’t matter. The ending is well-timed, and makes us pray for another rollercoaster ride that is just as thrilling and involving as Cloverfield is. It won’t be easy to accomplish.



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