Plot: What’s it about?
Producer, writer and director J.J. Abrams is just about everywhere these days. Fans of Abrams no doubt recognize him from television’s “Lost” and before that with “Alias”. Abrams helmed the third part of the “Mission: Impossible” movie line with great results as well. With all of that on his resume, Abrams sought out to produce a new age horror movie, one that is somewhat of the equivalent of “Godzilla” for the United States. And so we now have “Cloverfield”, a rather interesting take on the so-called monster movie and one with limitless possibilities when you really sit down and think about it. Abrams did not write nor direct the movie, that would fall into the hands of Drew Goddard and Matt Reeves respectively but names aside, “Cloverfield” is all about the fun. And what is the obsession with destroying the Statue of Liberty? In “Independence Day” we see it face down in the water and here we see her head used as somewhat of a bowling ball. That’s just…wrong!
“Cloverfield” starts off very unassuming in that we meet Rob (Michael-Stahl David) as he’s about to accept a huge promotion that will lead him to Tokyo. A large group of Rob’s friends (evidently he’s quite the social butterfly) have gathered to send him off and the party if documented by his wise-cracking friend, Hud (T.J. Miller). Things are going along just fine, though Rob seeks closure from his ex-girlfriend, Beth (Odette Yustman), who’s shown up with her new boyfriend. All of this comes to a halt, however, when they feel what can only be described as an earthquake. From there, they see a building explode, helicopters arrive on the scene and before they know it, it seems like the end of the world has arrived. Now here’s where it gets good. We follow a small group of party-goers as they try and escape Manhattan, only to see friends and family members killed. Eventually we’re left with a group of four as they attempt to get out alive and all the while Rob is determined to rescue Beth, though he’s not sure where she is or if she’s even alive.
I won’t divulge too much about what actually causes the destruction of the Big Apple, but let’s just say that my earlier comment about “Godzilla” does have a purpose. What’s unique about “Cloverfield” is the way in which we see it. We literally see it through the eyes of a camera and from Hud’s point of view (we actually see on a featurette that it’s not actually Hud doing the filming, but for all intents and purposes it’s him). This brings us more into the action and gives the movie a more “Blair Witch Project” look and feel to it. Unlike “I Am Legend”, the streets of New York weren’t used all that much and with good reason, as a good portion of Manhattan ends up in ruins before the closing credits run. There’s actually already talk of a sequel and why not? We could see the same movie from literally a million points of view. While “Cloverfield” isn’t the scariest movie out there, it’s interesting and intriguing enough to check out, for sure.
Video: How does it look?
“Cloverfield” is shot in a very unique way in that we see the movie through a DV camera. Naturally, they used professional equipment, but the intended effect is to give us a bird’s eye view of what’s happening. That said the 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer looks very good. The colors are very saturated at the beginning of the film and as the city transforms into more of a war zone, the light begins to fade and the film takes a much darker turn. I didn’t notice hardly any artifacting and though a bit of edge enhancement is present, it doesn’t detract from what’s on screen.
Audio: How does it sound?
A standard Dolby Digital 5.1 track is used here and at times to great effect. The sound of buildings being tossed around will tend to do that. The sound stage is multi-directional in that the camera shakes and we don’t really know where sounds are coming from. The dialogue tends to go in and out, though when we consider the source, it does make sense as we’re seeing what a camera is supposed to see and record. There are some great-sounding scenes, mainly at the ending of the film, that really give some added “oomph” to the soundtrack as a whole. While we’ve become so accustomed to lossless soundtracks, this 5.1 soundtrack does its job and does it well.
Supplements: What are the extras?
“Cloverfield” has been released on DVD (as of this writing Paramount has not announced when they’ll go back to producing Blu-ray) with “Newly Classified Information” which is a fancy marketing term for “Special Features”. The disc contains a fairly informative audio commentary by director Matt Reeves as he gives us information on the shoot, the cast and keeping the entire project under wraps. There are a few alternate endings (which really aren’t so alternate) with available director’s commentary as well as a few deleted scenes and a couple of featurettes on the making of the movie and Abram’s inspiration for the film. We also get some behind the scenes footage and a look at the rushed production (shooting started in June 2007 and the movie was released in January 2008). Add it all up and “Cloverfield” is a must own for fans of the film on DVD.