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Movie Review: Cloverfield

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Since its teaser trailer screened in front of Transformers this past summer, there's been a good deal of buzz surrounding Cloverfield. Unlike most movies that arrive loaded with hype, though (Snakes on a Plane anyone?), Cloverfield completely delivers. It is the most visceral, thrilling movie I've seen in years. Not since Trinity's opening bullet-time fight in the The Matrix have I heard an audience spontaneously burst into applause in the middle of a movie. They did in Cloverfield at the end of an insanely tense sequence in a subway tunnel.

The story of the movie is really quite simple: something immensely destructive has arrived in Manhattan and is on the loose. The film begins with a farewell party for a character named Rob. Everything seems completely normal. People are talking, flirting, drinking when suddenly a massive earthquake hits the city. The party-goers rush to the roof to see what's happening, arriving just in time to see a massive fireball erupt . The next hour of the film is so intense that many of who will find yourselves laughing (like I did) just to alleviate the tension.

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Rather than trying to escape, the central characters of Cloverfield head back into the city to try to rescue one of their fallen friends. Without spoiling anything, they encounter a nightmare world of surreal destruction where death is always only inches away. That journey is the real joy of the movie and immense credit must go to director Matt Reeves for creating a world that feels completely real and staging action sequences where the spatial orientation is so precise and correct that you always feel like you're in this world with these characters.

The combination of simple hand-held video and dense, layered special effects is seamless and the sound effects track is a perfect, crunching complement. Simply put, at no point does anything you're seeing feel artificial. Even though the characters are given only the barest of depth, you begin rooting for them almost immediately and the various tragedies that befall them have real impact. At its core, Cloverfield is nothing more than a monster movie, but it is one that is so perfectly executed that you simply marvel at it once its over.

Previously on LAist

  • LAist Interview: Matt Reeves, Director of Cloverfield

Photos courtesy of Paramount Pictures