Cloverfield (***)

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We live in an age and a society where just about everything is recorded for posterity: on cameras, on phones, on mP3 players, on camcorders. So, it goes without saying that if, say, a monster ever invaded a major metropolitan city, that somebody would be there to get it all on film. That’s exactly what happens in Cloverfield, the tense, well-crafted monster flick that was thought up by “LOST” co-creator J.J. Abrams, and directed by Matt Reeves.The idea behind Cloverfield is that the film is actually video footage taken from a camera found in New York City. The “footage” starts with a morning frolic between young lovers Beth (Odette Yustman) and Rob (Michael Stahl-David), and then quickly jumps to a party a month and a half later (the joke being here that somebody taped over the carefree day between the two lovebirds). The event is a going away party for Rob, who is going to Japan for business. We are introduced to the other major characters: Jason, Rob’s brother (Mike Vogel), Jason’s girlfriend, Lily (Jessica Lucas), Rob’s best friend and the man who will document the majority of the footage, Hud (T.J. Miller) and Marlena (Lizzy Caplan), a friend of Lilly’s.The friends gossip and bicker about relationships and social drama as if it was life-threatening, until…BOOM! For the next 70 minutes or so, Cloverfield doesn’t let up much, as it follows the group of twenty-somethings through panic, catastrophe and terror. Early on in the film, as the party guests flee the building, one character says in a throw away line, “is it another terrorist attack?” Indeed, it’s impossible to make a disaster film in New York after 9/11 and not be reminded of that terrible day, and some scenes in the film do evoke the feeling of Ground Zero (especially as the group ventures outside of the rubble that was moments before a convenience store).Matt Reeves stated in an interview that he wanted to get a cast of relative unknowns so the film felt as realistic as possible, and the actors are definitely naturalistic in their performances. They are all convincing in their roles without ever really standing out in any way (though some credit must be given to T.J. Miller, since he is off screen for the almost the entire film). It also helps that the monster, once we get a good look at it, is pretty impressive.Cloverfield is a tense, entertaining monster film, and I hope this movie is an indication of the direction the science fiction movie is going in the next couple of years.

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