Written by El Puerquito Magnifico
Most of us have seen a few movies featuring, or are at least familiar with, Godzilla, the sometimes scary, sometimes friendly, but almost always tongue-in-cheek monster who has repeatedly terrorized Tokyo since 1954. Godzilla (or Gojira) is a lot of fun, but have you ever really thought about what would happen if he was real? If a 200-foot tall monster actually rampaged through a big city? Have you ever considered the carnage, death, and chaos that would ensue? Luckily for us, producer J.J. Abrams, director Matt Reeves, and writer Drew Goddard have, and the answer they’ve come up with is Cloverfield.
Not only have they considered the real-life possibility of a giant monster wreaking havoc in a metropolitan area, they’ve also managed to find a way to make it a truly terrifying experience: by putting the viewer directly in the driver’s seat.
Cloverfield concerns a group of young adults who have gathered for a party. Their good buddy Rob is, appropriately, moving to Japan, and they want to wish him goodbye. One member of the group, Hud, has been given the task of documenting the evening on video. When the lights go out, and everyone goes outside to see New York City in flames, Hud’s role as documentarian becomes a bit more than just drunken frivolity; he is, for all intents and purposes, documenting the end of the world as they know it.
I’m not going to go any further into the plot because I feel that you should go into this movie with an open and empty mind. You don’t need me to tell you what happens, you just need to experience it. Because of the fact that the movie is shot (or at least appears to be shot) entirely on a hand-held camera, the viewer is, as I said earlier, in the driver’s seat for this experience. And as such, it truly is an experience, not simply a movie.
Cloverfield is the type of movie that has you on the edge of your seat the entire time you’re watching it. It’s very intense and unsettling. I left the movie feeling a bit stressed, breathing heavily and wanting a cigarette, as though I had just survived a particularly harrowing evening. The whole thing felt like I was watching a nightmare, and in fact, there were at least three separate instances where I thought to myself, “Yes, I have had that nightmare. This exact situation that the protagonists are in. I’ve been in the same situation in a dream. A bad dream.”
A big part of what makes the film so convincing is the lack of any big name actors. One of the characters looked kind of familiar, but I don’t know if that’s because I saw him in another movie, or if he just had one of those faces. It really makes the movie hit home, because you feel like these are people you could know, not some flavor-of-the-month WB actor.
There’s a lot of very 9/11-esque imagery throughout the movie, and of course, that’s done on purpose. I know there’s already been some reviewers who’ve looked negatively on this, but I don’t feel that it’s exploitative or offensive at all. Just as Godzilla was a representation of the Japanese people’s fears concerning Hiroshima, Cloverfield, as director Matt Reeves recently said, “very much speaks to the fear and anxieties of our time, how we live our lives. Constantly documenting things and putting them up on YouTube, sending people videos through e-mail. We felt it was very applicable to the way people feel now.” That’s not to say that Cloverfield is a political movie in any way, shape or form – it just conjures up some of the same feelings of hopelessness and desperation in a crisis situation.
But beyond all of that, Cloverfield is just damn fun. It’s a big smash ‘em up monster movie with New York City in flames and carnage all around. It’s a non-stop roller coaster thrill ride that will have you on the edge of your seat when you aren’t jumping out of it. Despite the frightening subject matter, Cloverfield is one hell of a good time. It’s quite a rush, and it’s almost cathartic in a way. It’s the sort of movie that you simply must talk about, but you can’t, because you don’t want to spoil it for anyone. (You can imagine how hard it was to write this review!) I’ve been thinking and talking about it for two days since seeing it, and I can’t wait to see it again. Cloverfield was one movie that I truly felt lived up to all the hype.