Cloverfield - Cinema Review

We’re only in February and already we have one of the year’s most anticipated, ambitious projects sitting proudly in cinemas. Cloverfield’s elaborate viral marketing campaign ensured its status as a mega-hyped blockbuster, produced with indie values. But now the final product is upon us does it live up to its own PR, or will it slowly sink to the bottom of the Hudson?

The answer, as with many films, is yes and…. well… no. Cloverfield is the mix of underground indie film and Hollywood blockbuster that we expected but it is this exact mix which proves it downfall. In its high-intensity action sequences which pepper the first half of the film the largely un-known, un-tested leads excel, reacting well to the carnage that they find themselves thrust into. However, when the action lulls or simply gets too unbelievable for the audience to cope with (a rooftop traverse between two skyscrapers is a low-point) the actors too find themselves struggling. One seems to forget that only a few minutes ago she was impaled on a metal spike and manages to run and hop into a chopper while another takes all of three minutes to get over the death of a significant character. The script does them no favours either with cheesy lines abound at moments where the tension would be better served with people just keeping quiet!

The effect is that while you do genuinely care about the characters and what happens to them, you don’t necessarily like them. Only Jessica Lucas as Lilly really manages to imbue her character with any genuine sympathy and even she has her low points. Our cameraman for the journey, ‘Hud’ (T.J. Miller) is annoyingly positive at the most inappropriate moments and does nothing more than suck out the atmosphere, reducing set-pieces to a bit of a joke the actors had on set rather than contributing to what should be a tense escape from New York. Michael Stahl-David as Rob is a leading man in the making but here he does nothing more than inhabit a generic action hero role, thrust upon a character who doesn’t fit the part.

The make or break moment for any monster movie is, inevitably the monster. Cloverfield’s is big and brash and relatively original and his (or her) reveal is paced well by Matt Reeves who recognises that less is more in the films excellently paced first forty-five minutes. The problem for said beastie is that he feels completely out of place in a low-fi indie film and while his presence is initially minimal it soon becomes overwhelming. While the first half sees him hiding conveniently behind a skyscraper or ducking back into the river before a clear shot can be had, the second half of the film has him posing for Hud’s camera as if he is sitting for his portrait. The effect is one which again contributes to destroy what was, for an all-too brief time, an excellently produced thriller.

Cloverfield is worth the admission price for the first forty-five minutes alone but (and this could well be an unintentional metaphor) the minute the army enter the fray all is quickly lost. A clunky script cannot be as well contained by Reeves as his monster is and despite decent attempts by the leads we simply don’t mind as much as we should whether they sink or swim.

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