cloverfield | matt reeves | drew goddard | mike vogel | jessica lucas | lizzy caplan | giant monster | action | sci-fi | sci fi | thriller | united states | found footage | found-footage | t.j. miller | michael stahl-david | odette annable | anjul nigam | margot farley
Director: Matt Reeves
Writer: Drew Goddard
Starring: Mike Vogel, Jessica Lucas and Lizzy Caplan
This was film I was intrigued by when I first heard of it as I’m a big fan of kaiju/giant monster films. My first viewing for this one was right after college. I enjoyed it then. I’ve now given it a few viewings for different reasons. Once to show my now wife to gauge her interest in found footage. I’ve seen it for the People’s Council on the Podcast Under the Stairs. Most recently I watched it with the commentary on of the director Matt Reeves for a bit more insight behind the movie. The official synopsis is a group of friends venture deep into the streets of New York on a rescue mission during a rampaging monster attack.
It starts off telling us that the footage we are about to watch is from the area now know as ‘Cloverfield’. It is formerly known as Central Park. The footage begins with a guy in an apartment overlooking the area. He goes into the bedroom where we see Beth McIntyre (Odette Annable). The man is Rob Hawkins (Michael Stahl-David). They plan their day together going to Coney Island.
The footage then shifts to Lily Ford (Jessica Lucas). She is with her boyfriend, getting things ready for a party that night. His name is Jason (Mike Vogel) and he is Rob’s brother. Rob is leaving for Japan for a new job and they are throwing a going away party. They don’t realize they are filming over the great day that Rob and Beth spent together.
Back Rob’s apartment, Hudson ‘Hud’ Platt (T.J. Miller) is convinced to film the party and to get people to say on their goodbyes on tape. They give a surprise to Rob and he had no idea. He starts to ask about Beth. She shows up with a new guy, upsetting Rob. All the while, Hud is trying to get the attention of Marlena Diamond (Lizzy Caplan) and figuring out what is going on between his best friend and Beth.
Things take quite the turn though when an earthquake hits or what they think is one. They turn on the news to hear about a ship capsized in the harbor and then rush up to the roof to see it. There’s another earthquake followed by an explosion that sends debris their way. Everyone flees the building. Outside they see a giant monster that moves past and the head of the Statue of Liberty rolls down the street. They decide their best chance is to get off the island. This all changes when Rob gets a call from Beth. She’s trapped in her apartment and he decides to try to save her. This won’t be easy with this giant monster and the things that fall off it that are also alive.
I knew from the first time that I liked it. This one got better though with rewatches. The first thing that struck me is the emotion of this film. It starts off as a good drama. I love the editing of the happy day that Rob and Beth had together, with the reality of where they are today. Building that emotion in the beginning makes sense as to why he is risking his life for her, especially since he messed it up. To be honest, this is something that I’ve thought about on a regular basis if something like this happened around me. I was a big fan of that aspect and it also helps us connect with our characters.
The next thing was that I for whatever reason thought they really didn’t show the monster much. I was wrong about that. We get to see the monster quite a bit. Making this film found footage is interesting as well, since we get to see it from the perspective of what it would be like trying to survive this. That is what the filmmakers were going for and I feel like they nailed it. It sets it apart. The group does some stupid things, but if they don’t, we don’t get to see all of things that happen. When thinking about though, there’s a chance I would make some of these same mistakes in a panic. There are some interesting set pieces as well.
There is a section where the surviving members of the group have a run in with the military. I love what happens to Marlena during this stretch as I found it intriguing. Everything happens in one night, so they wouldn’t have the answers yet. It was noteworthy how this plays out for sure. I did have a bit of an issue that the military letting them go and allowing them to film as much as they do. Not sure that they would, but the only thing would be the humanity of the military officer which could cause him to break protocol. He probably wouldn’t be found out so there is that since this is all haphazard.
Now the only issue I have with this film goes back to the found footage aspect. I believe that Hud would keep the camera and continue filming. It is even more prevalent today that we would film things around us like he is. This is a major event and will change the course of history. We see that when people come up to the head of the Statue of Liberty. There are others with their camera phones. There are just times where I’m like; wouldn’t you put the camera down here? It just makes it implausible that you would risk yourself to just keep filming. This doesn’t hurt the film, but it is an issue with found footage. I will say that he’s awkward and to be honest, I see a bit of myself there. I could legit see him continuing. He also adds comedy with things he says.
This brings me to the pacing, which I think is great. The film doesn’t waste any time. The introduction of the characters is good and it doesn’t take too long. We continue to learn about each one as they try to survive this event. I dug that aspect of the film. Rob becomes the catalyst for what they are doing and I thought it was interesting how it presents his issue and how he grows from it. I thought the ending was good and bringing us to how the footage was found. I dug making what was filmed confidential and that the government has confiscated it. Going along with that, you’d assume that New York is made safe at some point, but we don’t learn the outcome of this event.
Acting was something else that was good. It is crazy that quite a few of these actors have gone on to do other things and this shows their potential. Caplan is solid as the outsider. She brings sarcasm and I thought her role was good. Lucas is interesting and her frustration was fitting. She is a good friend throughout. Miller also brings humor. His character isn’t that different from his in Deadpool. I love his nervous tick to just talk, especially about inappropriate things as that would be me. I like his banter with Marlena. Stahl-David is good. He is kind of the hero and I thought his growth was solid. I just love that he’s scared to fail and can completely understand it. That is part of the burden he needs to overcome. Vogel was also solid as his brother. Annable is gorgeous and it is just a shame she wasn’t in the film more. I’m also a big fan of her. It does well at making you care about these characters, so when some of them die, you feel something. The rest of the cast round out the film for what they needed as well.
Next would be the effects of the film. To bring a monster like this to life, you must go CGI, which I thought looked great. The monster looks real and the things they have it doing are as well. There are a few moments where it doesn’t hold up, but very little. As I said earlier, I was surprised how much they do show the monster, but also how quickly or being shown from a distance as well. The setting is also great to make New York look as empty as everyone is trying to flee. That is an underrated aspect of the film as well. The cinematography is very well done for being found footage. It does make you feel like you are there. I did learn that the quick shows and using the Steadicam helped this. They didn’t need to flesh out more of the monster since we aren’t seeing from different angles. It made since listening to the special features for this.
The score is something else that can be tricky in a film like this. The only music I remember was at the party and it felt like we were there. The rest of the sound design was good to make it feel as real as possible. You get the sounds of monster, the army fighting back and just buildings falling part. It is done ambient, so it builds that realism.
Now with that said, I’m glad I gave this one a few rewatches. I knew that I liked it the first time, but I can confirm this is good. As a fan of giant monster films, this feels real. Going with found footage like they did makes it feel like this is happening and the realism is great. I thought the acting, effects and sound design were good. The low running time and editing of the film keep the tension building to a satisfying conclusion. I even like the beginning being somewhat of a drama helps us to like the characters and care about what happens to them. If you don’t like found footage, I would avoid this. If that’s not the case, I think this is a good movie, especially if you like giant monster films. I’d recommend giving this one a viewing and it does hold up to multiple viewings.
My Rating: 8.5 out of 10