New review, and since it’s Cloverfield, and since J.J. Abrams gave us the teaser at the start of the movie, I AM posting the teaser for Star Trek at the end. So here it is!
The first film of the year worth seeing, and goddamn is it worth seeing. Featuring a cast of young actors of no particular importance, and directed by Matt Reeves, who’s been making a name for himself directing TV shows for the past 14 years, this J.J. Abrams produced monster movie is the stuff horror junkies and film nerds salivate over. Luckily for you, I’m somewhat both.
Rob Hawkins (Michael Stahl-David) just took a high level corporate position in Japan, so his brother Jason (Mike Vogel), best friend Hud (T.J. Miller) and Jason’s girlfriend Lily (Jessica Lucas) throw him a going away party, with Hud filming it all for posterity. Through both the on camera interviews Hud performs, and cut-aways to what was previously on the tape, we find out that there is complicated history between Rob and Beth (Odette Yustman). Then the power starts to flicker and the building quakes. The party guests head up to the roof to check things out, and notice explosions off in the New York City skylline. They head down to the street, and that’s when they figure out what’s going on. A monster is attacking New York City. What ensues is a panic enduced thrill ride that is as entertaining as it is gripping.
A cast of mostly unknowns was the best route to go for Abrams (Lost, Mission: Impossible III) and crew to go, as anybody registering any amount of star power would have seriously detracted from the film. I mean, the most recognizable face for the mainstream movie-going public is Lizzy Caplan as Marlena, and she was was Janis Ian in Mean Girls. As previously stated, the lack of highly recognizable faces made for a more engrossing film experience. We were able to believe that these were actual people in this actual situation. Granted as believable as a monster who lay dormant in the northern Atlantic for 1000’s of years waking up and attacking a major metropolitan city can be. But they put me there.
The biggest asset this film had going for it was the handheld camera direction. It obviously is drawing comparison to 1999’s The Blair Witch Project, but the comparisons end at character P.O.V. direction. Where Blair Witch Project was presented as a documentary, viewing the action from a third person perspective, in Cloverfield, we’re given the first person perspective. Hud is filming the party which leads us to the attack. We’re given the obvious yet necessary explanitory exchange where Rob asks if he’s still filming, to which Hud responds, “Yeah, people are gonna want to know, how it all went down.” It’s a blatent deus ex machina, but without it we’re left wondering why these 20-somethings are still filming.
But that device of presenting in first person is precisely what makes this such an effective thriller. We’re experiencing exactly what the characters are, and subsequently can sympathize. We’re given fleeting hints at the monster throughout the film, sort of a Jaws-ian move to not reveal the monster till the third act, which heightens the suspense throughout the film, and adds to the shock, awe and horror of the revelation towards the end.
And the end. The end is one of the more satisfying endings I’ve ever seen. I promise not to reveal the end, but rest assured, it does not disappoint. It is precisely how they should have ended it.
Abrams and crew created the perfect monster/horror flick to kick off 2008, and if this is any indication of what he can do, I can wait till he closes out the year with Star Trek.
Here’s the teaser:
Before I get to that, if you’re wondering about the cast:
Kirk- Chris Pine (Smokin’ Aces)
Spock- Zachary Quinto (Heroes)
Scotty- Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead)
Sulu- John Cho (Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle)
Uhura- Zoe Saldana (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl)
McCoy- Karl Urban (The Lord of the Rings)
Chekov- Anton Yelchin (Alpha Dog)
Pike- Bruce Greenwood (National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets)
Eric Bana, Winona Ryder, Leonard Nimoy and Jennifer Morrison also star.
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