Sunday, January 20, 2008

Praising Cloverfield.

Cloverfield is the most nerve-wracking movie I've seen since The Blair Witch Project. The two movies share more than tension. Like its predecessor, Cloverfield's filming is part of the movie. Whereas in most movies the characters pretend there is no camera, in Cloverfield the camera is part of the movie. It's a clever technique for bringing the audience into the movie and ratcheting up the tension to an almost unbearable level.

Cloverfield's film technique might be contemporary but in one way the movie is a throwback to an earlier era when producers ruled Hollywood. Today is the era of directorial power. Yet, all the buzz about Cloverfield is over the fact that it is J.J. Abrams' new movie. Abrams didn't direct the movie and he didn't write it. He produced it. Of course, Abrams is the producer of the TV show, Lost. On TV directors and writers still take a back seat to producers. Cloverfield is a bit of a TV movie in that regard.

That being said, Cloverfield is directed and written well by Matt Reeves and Drew Goddard, respectively. There are two stories in the movie. There's the plot one expects from a monster movie: puny humans running from the giant monster attacking New York and futilely fighting back. Woven into this plot rather effectively is the development of a love story between two of the survivors. The movie even weaves in a backstory without departing from its unconventional filming technique. The backstory, like the main plot, is told through scenes apparently shot on the camera used by one of the characters. The monster story is exciting and tense but it's the plight, courage, and heart of the characters that make this movie something worthwhile.

-tdr

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