Oh man... Cloverfield...
I am, quite possibly for the first time ever with one of these things, slightly speechless (and of course, now that I've said that I'll ramble on for about three pages)...
My brain is just a little bit frazzled after the whole experience... so much so that I had to sit there in the cinema while the credits were playing and just remember to breathe for about half the credits (or at least until the music started) before I could start to make a coherent sentence.
That's not to say that it's the best movie I've ever seen, but if you had to make a list of movies that really, really pull you into the story and just don't let you go, then this one would be up there somewhere.
I think partly it's the "first person, hand held camera" thing... which is a little disconcerting when the movie first starts, and I guess, if you're susceptible to motion sickness then this might not be the movie for you unless you pop a Dramamine first, since the camera work is "worse" than in any other movie I've ever seen. But while it usually bugs the hell out of me (and I won't lie, there were moments where I was thinking "Hold the damn camera still for two seconds, would ya!"), for some reason it just works for this movie... again, I think it's because, as I said, the whole movie was shot hand held, and by one of the characters to boot. It did keep reminding me of The Blair Witch Project, except this movie was actually interesting...
It does give the director and editors license to do a bunch of jump-cuts and miss out chunks of time and basically do pretty much anything they like from an editing perspective though. Which was interesting, occasionally frustrating and on at least one occasion scared the crap out of me.
The whole movie is something of an experiment both in trying to make a monster movie without actually making a monster movie, and also making this slightly "art house" movie with all the hand-heldness. And the first part is an interesting concept... you watch all those "big monster comes and squishes [insert city here]" movies, but do you ever wonder what happens to all the people who live in that city? Not the people who somehow get involved in defeating the monster and who you know are going to get rescued during the last reel, but just a bunch of regular folks. How scary and confusing and dangerous and chaotic would it be. And this movie does a pretty good job at exploring that.
It also took on a somewhat eerie tone during the beginning as they borrowed quite heavily from the 911 attacks to make part of the attack on the city even more realistic, and I remember that somebody at some point does say "Is it another attack?".
That's not to say that the movie is without it's flaws...
Firstly there's the ever-present video camera... not only does it not run out of tape, or battery power, even though it's running almost continually for twelve hours, but it also just happens to have both a light AND the ability to film in night vision. Now, supposedly it's the Panasonic HVX200 digital video camera... and if I could be bothered I'd look it up and see if it actually could do all of those things, because I'm sure it won't. The other thing is that in the midst of all this chaos and running and screaming and pain and whatever, the guy never puts the camera down... or if he does, it's not for very long. At the same time it's both somewhat unbelievable, but also has a slight ring of truth about it, especially in America. But because I kept going back and forth about it, it did pull me out of the movie once or twice.
And while they do keep the visibility of the "thing" attacking the city down to a minimum, and when you do tend to get a decent look at it there's the whole camera shake thing that breaks up your view... but I did think it might have been interesting if you NEVER saw the thing... if they could have played the entire movie just on the people and never really have to see the external attacker. Or maybe that would have just been really frustrating... you would have spent the whole movie just wanting to see the thing... and I guess they way they did it might have been a more "realistic" approach.
The other thing that I wasn't overly thrilled with was the look of the "thing"... the CGI isn't great... but then I do say that about most things, so maybe it's just me... or maybe it's just that my brain was having to fill in too many details because of the way it was all shot, I dunno.
But I will say that the movie is highly effective and affecting... I'm sure I spent a large chunk of it in a similar state of heart pounding, adrenaline pumping, over-excitement to the characters... and I know that there were at least a couple of occasions where I stopped breathing briefly... and I know I kinda threw myself back on my chair a few times. Then when the whole thing was over I had to sit there and collect myself for a while.
And while it's been proved a long while ago that I'm occasionally a big sooky-lala, but I very nearly cried twice... both towards the end of the movie when everything was going to hell in a handbasket... but there almost wasn't even time to fall to bits before we were off again.
It's also a movie I definitely want to see again, preferably on DVD... if only so that I have access to a pause and rewind button and the ability to go frame by frame during certain sections, because I'm sure there's some stuff that I missed and some stuff that I think I saw that I didn't... and I know there's something right at the very end that I missed that I now want to see...
While it's not a perfect movie, I will give them an A for effort... and for exploring a whole different concept.
yani's rating: 3 handicams out of 5