Photobucket“How would you say goodbye, forever?”

There has been a buzz about this film since mid 2007 when we first saw the Statue of Liberty’s head go flying down a NY City street in the original trailer. The name of J.J. Abrams attached to it only increased the excitement. Well the wait is over as Cloverfield hits theaters this Friday. The secrecy surrounding the film and its contents ranks right up there with the JFK assassination. Yes they know who did it. Quit fooling yourselves. Even at the screening of this film fans were instructed to not give away anything they were about to see, but to allow their friends to experience it first hand. And granted that is the way it should be. Why ruin it for the other sucker? There is little left in the film world to be excited about or to anticipate. So enjoy it as much as you can. My review this week will seem vague but know that it is only because there is little to tell and the rest is impossible to describe.

Many asked me if the film is any good. I had no answer. A film like Cloverfield isn’t supposed to be good. Not in the traditional sense. This film has elements that are great and it leaves you stunned and shaking your head. The concept, the story, the artistic direction; all make a profound impact. It is the lack of anything formulaic that makes it so bold but also takes away from the whole. Have you ever ridden a rollercoaster and after you have been off for about an hour your head is still fuzzy and you are sort of in that motion sickness stage? That is the way I am now. Still. I can see the faces of those in the film and I feel for them. Even now. Sitting here. It is quite odd.

Set in Manhattan the story revolves around an attack on the city. Monster, alien, scientific experiment. Who knows? But it is huge and mad about something. The film follows a small group of young New Yorkers as they document their escape and try to get out alive. The movie is roughly 80 minutes long and at no time does the camera ever sit still for more than 3 seconds. It is a constant, shaky, jerking motion that rattles your head around so much that you find yourself almost nauseous. When it isn’t grainy the film is dark and out of focus. It never settles on an image long enough to get a feel for what you are truly seeing. But as frustrating as that is there is no doubt that it sucks you into the film and adds realism to the story. You feel like you are in the action. You can feel the sting of the smoke and smell the city on fire. It drains you physically causing your mental senses to kick in to compensate. By the end you are done. But the imagery and everything you didn’t see lingers long on in your scull wagon.

Cloverfield is rated PG-13 for violence, terror and disturbing images. I can see where the realism would have a very strong effect on younger viewers so parents be very careful with those under 12. The line is skewed between movie making and reality. Adults can process this better I would think. True this is a monster movie in the vain of Independence Day and War of the Worlds. But neither of those put you as front and center in the chaos as this one does. And in all honesty pale in comparison. Still, know going in that traditional movie fans will be disappointed with the lack of “movie” and put off with the dizzying camera work. I walked out the theater hating this film but as I sit here several hours later writing this review I realize how special it was. Do I like it any better? I am not sure. But I can not deny its effect on the viewer. No. That I can not deny. I got the sense that when the end of the world finally does come, this is what it will feel like for those left in the chaos. I give Cloverfield 3 out of 5 mini DV’s. You will love it or hate it and nothing I say will change your mind, regardless of which side you are on.

Matt Mungle (matt@mungleshow.com)(1/16/08)

“Matt is a member of the North Texas Film Critics Association (NTFCA) and co-hosts a weekly radio feature, The Mungles on Movies, with his wife Cindy. For additional reviews, interview clips and great DVD giveaways, visit the website www.mungleshow.com”

Review copyright 2008 Mungleshow Productions. Used by Permission.

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