Friday, January 18, 2008
Cloverfield (Matt Reeves, 2008)
Cloverfield (Matt Reeves, 2008)
Typically this sort of film wouldn't interest me, but because of the unique documentary style it was shot in along with the brilliant marketing campaign, I was intrigued, but still very skeptical. A concise pitch would most likely describe Cloverfield as "The Blair Witch Project meets Godzilla", however I think that the film is more inspired by the amateur footage collected post 9/11 as well as Paul Greengrass' United 93, among other things. The film is a unique and incredibly visceral experience as the setup is that we are literally watching a government owned footage from a single tape found at the site of the incident. We are first introduced to footage of a couple, Robert and Beth, who enjoy a romantic afternoon in Coney Island, only to be interrupted by footage from Robert's brother and his girlfriend as they plan for Rob's going away party. After a few cuts back and forth between the two different footage which show dates separated by nearly a month, we discover that the older footage is actually being recorded over, essentially acting as a sporadic flashback, serving as a brilliant bookend to the film as well as a back story and character development device. Hud, Robert's best friend, takes over the camera duties once the party begins, as he goes around collecting good look testimonies from everyone. As the mayhem begins, Hud appoints himself as the noble documenter and dutifully captures incredible first hand footage of the destruction and deaths of those around him. Hud also serves as comic relief, perhaps a little too often, with his often boneheaded statements and attempts at flirting with Marlena. Although there really isn't much to the narrative itself, and a lot of things are left ambiguous or flat out unaddressed, I found this supported the realism and immediacy of the film. I was worried the acting and the dialogue would come across as too phony, however I was pleasantly surprised, as it played out better than anticipated. although there are some lines I could have done without. The hand held digital camerawork obviously was the biggest factor in selling the reality in which such a fantastical situation was conveyed. Perhaps the most impressive part of the film is the choreography, especially with the cinematography and special effects, which I also found to work well. I wasn't as concerned with the monster, although a lot of people seemed to be preoccupied with it. I found myself more interested in the group of characters and their isolated experience. I saw the film in front of a packed house at the midnight showing at the Grauman's Chinese Mann theater, and have to say it was the most fun I've had at the movies in a long time, but the film is more than just empty entertainment and sensationalism; the monster itself could be considered an embodiment of our fear of terrorism, or the general unknown. In this modern age where everyone has access to media technology, as well as Youtube and the like, this film is very relevant. There is a great scene where people crowd around the Statue of Liberty's head and frantically take pictures with their cellphones. Most importantly it's a new way of experiencing cinema, and certainly a great way to start 2008. Granted Blair Witch did it first, but Cloverfield takes it to the next level and does it better.