A Pillar of the Sci-Fi Genre
Cloverfield (2008): A group of friends venture deep into the streets of New York on a rescue mission during a rampaging monster attack.
I'm not gonna lie: this film easily makes my top 5 favorite films of the 2000s. It is original-up to that point the only other high profile "found footage" films that had been released were Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project-and it is creative! I mean this film is essentially just a Godzilla film. But it is sooooooo much more than that. It comes in at an short 85 minutes, with 12 minutes of end credits in there as well. So, really, just 73 minutes. But so much happens in 73 minutes. I will never forget my feeling after watching this film for the first time when it was released. A couple friends and myself (we were still in high school) went and saw this on a Friday night after school. When the film was over, I remember thinking damn that that film must've been over 3 hours long. We all felt this way, so it came as a true shock when we realized that the film wasn't even half as long as it felt like it was. I had never experienced this feeling before nor have I felt it since. I can't even begin to describe how much happens in this film over the course of 75 minutes. And, scene after scene, this film delivers its claustrophobic and frantically paced survival tale flawlessly. Is it perfect? No. But it is damn near perfect that's for sure.
So let's talk about what this film does right. Which is pretty much everything. The thing that a lot of people didn't like was what this film did so well: the "found footage" aspect of it. With so many films, it's used purely as a gimmick. The perfect example I think of (even though it came out a few years later) is Chronicle. As good a film as Chronicle was, it could've been told a lot more effectively from a third person perspective, and on the second and third viewings you realize how utterly ridiculous the final action sequence is of that film as the filmmakers desperately tried to stay true to their gimmick. However, in Cloverfield? I honestly can't envision this film being shot any other way. At no point does use of the style feel like a gimmick, and it makes many scenes that much more intense as your field of vision is narrowed significantly by the first person perspective. It makes many scenes, particularly the subway scene, feel incredibly claustrophobic and constricting. Also, I really cannot praise this subway scene enough. All the elements of this film come together beautifully for this brief scene and it's honestly one of my favorite scenes from the 2000s because of it. I know you want to revisit, so I attached it for you here.
You're welcome. So, what else is there to talk about? Oh! The acting! This film launched the careers of T.J. Miller, Lizzy Caplan,Odette Annable, and Jessica Lucas, and it's easy to see why. All of them plus Michael Stahl-David are incredible in this film as they showcase a wiiiiide variety talent throughout the film. I'm so proud of these guys now! As soon as this film was over I said all these guys were future a-listers. While this hasn't really panned out for anyone other than maybe T.J. Miller, if you watch Gotham you are very familiar with Jessica Lucas, Caplan has found her niche among the Franco-Rogen comedies, and Annable has been all over the place on TV. There's really only one complaint I have about this film: the dialogue. Some of the dialogue is pretty cringe-worthy, like what's virtually the opening line of this entire freaking film. Gets me to cringe every time. However, Miller definitely saves it, as his witty (and likely improvised) remarks are some of the best moments of the film. "WHAT IS THAT?" "It's just.....just a terrible thing." His one-liners are much needed in an otherwise incredibly serious movie and they help to remind you that it is just a movie. Because after about 45 minutes you really start to forget that you're watching a film and think, "Did this actually happen somewhere? Why haven't I heard about this????"
As soon as it comes, though, it leaves. I guess the other complaint with this film is that I really really wanted more. Matt Reeves, Drew Goddard, and J.J. Abrams did a great job of not overstaying their welcome on this one and leaving you yearning for more. That's why I hope 10 Cloverfield Lane kills it at the box office because holy crap does Cloverfield 2 need to happen. Like NOW. But, as for now, what we have here is a ridiculously fun and engaging sci-fi film featuring the best American-made Godzilla-esque monster we've ever seen. While there are a few problems to be had, it doesn't detract from an overall awesome experience, and one that more than holds up over 8 years later. If you've somehow not seen Cloverfield, you have literally no reason not to watch it. After all, it's only gonna take up 75 minutes of your time, and every second of that 75 minutes you'll be glued to your television screen. While certainly not as iconic as Star Wars or Alien or anything, Cloverfield is still one of my favorite sci-fi films of all time, and it's definitely one of the reasons why I love cinema.
The Critique: Featuring a gripping narrative, fantastic acting, and amazing visual effects, Cloverfield has stood the test of time and still remains one of sci-fi's best films.
The Recommendation: If you haven't seen this film, please dear GOD change that immediately.
The Verdict: 9/10 Awesome.
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