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Cloverfield Is a Thrilling, Edge-of-Your-Seat Ride

  • Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2008 1 Jan
  • COMMENTS
<i>Cloverfield</i> Is a Thrilling, Edge-of-Your-Seat Ride

Release Date:  January 18, 2008
Rating:  PG-13 (violence, terror and disturbing images)
Genre:  Action/Sci-fi/Thriller
Run Time:  90 min.
Director:  Matt Reeves
Actors:  Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller, Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogel, Odette Yustman

Between Will Smith's recent sci-fi thriller I Am Legend and now, J.J. Abrams' much buzzed-about Cloverfield, Manhattan has taken quite a beating on the big screen lately.

Wherever there's mysterious, creepy creatures lurking about, apparently, they are only interested in attacking New Yorkers. Which is good news for the other 49 states, but not so great for the roughly 8.2 million people who call the Big Apple home.

Thankfully for those disappointed in the somewhat hokey Legend, the New York setting is about all these two movies have in common. From the get-go, there's an air of mystery about Cloverfield that causes one to wonder exactly how everything's going down.

After all, the disaster flick starts off rather unconventionally with a romantic exchange between off-again couple Rob (Michael Stahl-David) and Beth (Odette Yustman). Here, the couple has spent its first night together and are playfully filming each other the next morning. Then, before you've had time to think much more about Rob and Beth, we've fast-forwarded to what seems to be your average going-away party.

Apparently, Rob has accepted a job in Japan, so his pals have gotten together for one last hurrah. They drink, laugh and gossip about each other, no person more memorable than the next. And thanks to Hud's (T.J. Miller) willingness to round up the goodbye messages for Rob via the video camera, there's also plenty of comic relief in the mix as Hud's got an unintentionally funny comeback for everything that's being said.

The film, which essentially is about one videotape's worth of material, then takes a dramatic turn as the chaos begins. Buildings are falling over. The Statue of Liberty's head has toppled onto the sidewalk. There are explosions, debris flying and a giant monster that's immune to anything standing in its way. (For those who've followed Abrams' work on Felicity, Alias and LOST, his interest in all things unexplained again reigns supreme here.) 

And unlike in Legend, where the creatures were always in full view which destroyed most of the spine-tingling factor, you never get a real good look at the thing causing all the trouble in Cloverfield. There are shadowy glimpses from time to time, but nothing crisp and concrete. Information about its origins is also omitted, causing you to become more curious by the moment.

Also providing a different take on the whole disaster film genre is using a shaky, hand-held camera a la The Blair Witch Project. While the technique could be a little dizzying and distracting to some viewers, there's a sense of immediacy that couldn't be communicated any other way. As the protagonists try to find a safe escape from their impending doom, you're right beside them for the ride, which makes the journey far more memorable than your average Godzilla flick.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Social drinking.
  • Language/Profanity:  There are a couple of profanities and repeated instances of "Oh my G—"
  • Sex/Nudity:  One of the party's major revelations was that Rob and Beth had sex. Nothing was shown; it was just mentioned several times.
  • Violence/Gore:  These creatures' unexpected attack leads to an untimely death for many New Yorkers as major buildings are knocked over, bridges collapse and others are injured by the monsters themselves. There are also a number of pulse-racing situations that'll keep you on the edge of your seat. And in some scenes, there's no shortage of blood and gore, although not at the Sweeney Todd level.