• 2008-01-30
  • By Talis Saule Archdeacon

UNSEEN ENEMY: Shot in a "Blair Witch," hand-held camera style, this film avoids showing us the big monster too early on.

Director: Matt Reeves

I have never been a big fan of either giant-monster-rampages-through-major-city films or the Blair-Witch-style-shaky-camera effect, and this movie has them both. Despite my misgivings, however, I found that Cloverfield really wasn't all that bad.
Director Matt Reeves avoided the obvious temptation of filling the screen with glory shots of a massive, CGI monster spiked with shaky camera shots of people running away. On the contrary, Cloverfield comes across as a story about people.

Instead of opening credits the audience is faced with a screen claiming the following is a "Property of the U.S. Government," and that it was found in the area "formerly known as Central Park."
Following that the entire film is meant to look like a home-video. Jason (Mike Vogel) and his girlfriend Lily (Jessica Lucas) are throwing a goodbye party for Jason's brother Rob (Michael Stahl-David) as he gets ready to move to Japan. Rob's best friend Hud (T.J. Miller) is documenting the party and recording farewell messages from the guests while making clumsy passes at Marlene (Lizzy Caplan), another guest.

There is a loud booming sound and their building, along with half of Manhattan, loses power. When the party guests decide to go to the roof to see what is happening they get their first glimpses of a giant monster destroying the city. They flee to the street where the disembodied head of the Statue of Liberty lands with a fiery crash.
The five main characters try to escape Manhattan over the bridge, but are forced to turn back. When Rob receives a frantic phone call from Beth (Odette Yustman), with whom he is madly in love, he convinces his troupe to rush off to rescue her.

From that point on, Hud documents the group running through the city, driven half by fear and half by the single-minded quest to save their friend.
As the film progresses the audience is able to see ever larger glimpses of the monster and the dog-sized  spider-like creatures it spawns.
The home video style of the film was well done, a fact made clear by the audience's constant chatter throughout the film 's much like people would talk through a home movie. The talking didn't detract from the movie, which is meant to have a significant amount of background noise anyway.

Though you shouldn't expect to walk away from this movie with any deep philosophical thoughts or lasting impressions, it is still good enough to be well worth the ticket price.

Now showing in Estonia and Latvia. Opens in Lithuania Feb. 15.

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