Directed by: Matt Reeves
Written by: Drew Goddard
Starring: Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller, Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogel, Odette Annable
Runtime: 84 min
A surprise going-away party between friends is interrupted when a monster of massive dimensions starts to destroy New York City. They need to leave the city before a heavy weapon is unleashed on it and rescue as many of them as they can.
J.J. Abrams is one of the best producers in movie/television history, so a film with him and with the direction of Matt Reeves is definitely worth taking a peek.
I don't recall watching a found footage movie ever, so when I first saw Cloverfield I was not that excited. However, I really enjoyed the film the first time and now that The Cloverfield Paradox came out, I wanted to review the previous two installments of the franchise, so here we are again.
I read that a lot of people felt nauseated during this movie due to the shaky-cam that is used throughout the entire runtime, but I didn't feel that at all. In fact, even though I have no experience in watching films with this type of filming, I actually think this is a great directing achievement by Matt Reeves. He does an excellent job handling the camera like this, I rarely felt lost in space or didn't realize what was happening. I always know where everyone is compared to the others and sometimes this is difficult to achieve even with a steady-cam.
Additionally, it helps to hide the "ok" visuals effects which are not that great, even having in mind the year of the movie's release. Quality-wise, Reeves also implements some cool long takes which can battle the obvious issues that arise from a found footage film. The editing has its ups and downs since it is obvious that some scenes are too dark or too shaky to follow seamlessly. Plus, the movie repeats itself by having a lot of running with the camera looking down to the ground or way up to the sky/buildings.
Some jump scares can't escape the cliche build-up which does not exactly help to improve the horror genre present in the film. The first act might drag a little too much in order to introduce the characters and their backstories. Besides, the setups for each character are really brief and this might not give you enough time to care about them. Nevertheless, I think I am one of the few people out there to actually love this movie!
Yes, it has flaws. Yes, the characters are not amazingly compelling or extremely well-developed. But, by God, this film is awesome! The story is incredibly intriguing and the fact that it only runs for 84 minutes, just makes it even better. This is not a movie about a character's journey or an emotional drama with a meaningful message to deliver. It is a pure science fiction monster flick with a really cool action-heavy story and a freaking badass monster.
It is a bit hard to distinguish good performances from the bad ones through a shaky-cam. That said, I think everyone is more than fine and Michael Stahl-David (Rob) excellently leads this film. Lizzy Caplan (Marlena) and T.J. Miller (Hud) also deliver some good displays. The characters they portray might not be unique or fully-developed, but they are introduced to us on a very personal level. Even though it is a very short first act, it does more than enough for me to at least care about their mission to rescue their friends.
From the moment the "event" occurs, I did not stop having fun, not for one minute. The build-up to the first appearance of the Cloverfield monster is brilliantly executed, every scene with a small flash of a part of its body is bone-chilling and this mystery vibe never fades away. There is never a dull moment and everything feels uncommonly realistic (the sense of urgency and danger is always present), the cinematography is pretty decent.
Every act is better than its last, as the palpable action and the extreme suspense levels go higher and higher towards its fantastic ending (one that gives rise to well-deserved sequels). A lot of theories regarding the monster's origin have been developed and that is due to the last scene of the movie. After my rating, I will explain what happens since it might be a spoiler for the next films.
All in all, Cloverfield is freaking amazing. I might be one of the few people truly loving it, but the issues with the shaky-cam or with the characters didn't affect me as much as it did with others. Excellent direction from Matt Reeves, very entertaining screenplay from Drew Goddard and fantastic production of J.J. Abrams, who clearly has a heavy hand on this. The cast works fine for the plot which is the reason why this movie is a success. A science fiction monster film at its best, with suspenseful action and a tremendous sense of urgency. It has a more than satisfactory control of the shaky-cam and a mysterious ending that deserves some exceptional sequels.
****************** SPOILER WARNING ******************
In the very last scene, we see Rob and Beth (Odette Annable) near the beach. We can see the sand and the whole ocean with a beautiful wide shot. Knowing J.J. Abrams, this couldn't be just a random ending to a sci-fi movie. It is extremely easy to miss, but if you pay close attention to the upper right corner of the screen, you will see something falling from the sky into the water.
Some say it was the monster arriving at the planet. Some think it was something like a satellite or a meteor and that it had awakened the monster living at the bottom of the ocean (during the film, Hud actually says something regarding the monster's origin being the deep ocean and that he had crawled up through an opening ... Once again, knowing J.J. Abrams, this is a hint not just random funny dialogue).
Which one do I think it is true? Well, I am strongly in favor of the satellite theory, but I will explain myself better in my next review of 10 Cloverfield Lane.