Written by Drew Goddard, directed by Matt Reeves.
Cloverfield is grassroots Godzilla – a monster movie utterly determined to preserve its human perspective on disaster. The film achieves this chiefly through the use of handycam-style photography, presenting the ’story’ as a Reality-Show-Gone-Wrong as opposed to Epic Disaster Movie. I say ’story’ in inverted commas because it doesn’t feel like something somebody’s made up; rather it feels like something terrible just happens to unfold as someone is making a home video. The entire film is framed in this light – at no point do we see what the character behind the camera does not see - and it is this consistency that makes it seem so authentic.
Cloverfield cleverly opens with a surprise farewell party, and it is at this party that we are able to drink in the characters, their personalities, their relationships, and their motivations. By the time disaster struck, I was already invested in the characters and their drama. In particular, I felt a deep connection to ‘Hud’, the film’s fictional photographer. In many ways, he is the main character – the lens through which we perceive the group’s travails, the voice that guides us through the rubble and trauma – even though he’s the one we see the least. I wondered whether the name ‘Hud’ was an intentional play on the term ‘HUD’ or ‘heads-up display’, given to describe his role as framer and interpreter...
Cloverfield anchors its humanity, firstly through the believable performances of its ensemble cast. Each character faces loss and trauma (physical and mental) in uniquely valid ways. (This is best exemplified when protagonist Rob receives a call from his mother. How do you break the news that someone very close to you has died? What do you say to a friend who has just lost a loved one, when you’ve really got to keep moving just to survive?) And secondly, through Matt Reeves’ stubborn refusal to show the creature in its entirety until the final act. At no point is it allowed to steal the focus – it is an immovable force of nature – only when the beast poses a direct threat to the group do we finally see it in full.
The destruction of
By focusing on what is real – that is, people and their reactions to personal loss – writer Drew Goddard and director Matt Reeves have crafted a thoroughly believable work of fiction. And though I keep telling myself that all this can be found in a monster movie, I can’t help but disbelieve it.