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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Blake Lively
Mike Vogel
Lizzy Caplan
Michael Stahl-David
Greg Grunberg.
Directors
Matt Reeves.
Screenwriters
Drew Goddard.
Running Time
85 minutes

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Cloverfield
This is cinematic pleasure at its purest


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Plot
During a leaving party for Rob (Stahl-David) something attacks New York and stands between him and the woman he loves (Yustman). So begins a race to rescue the girl and avoid getting eaten, all viewed via camcorder.


Review
Cloverfield
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It’s extremely rare in modern cinema to see a film that strikes you as genuinely new. Not just excellent – we’ve been spoiled in that department in the last six months – but properly like nothing that you’ve laid eyes on before. In the last fifteen years, Pulp Fiction, Scream, The Matrix and arguably Bourne and Jurassic Park have all done it, shaking out genres as old as celluloid and making them seem sparkly new, becoming future templates in the process. Cloverfield could come to be equally revered and imitated, such is its level of whip-smart invention and brilliant simplicity. It’s a film that treads the well-worn steps of many monster movies past, but flits through them as if on virgin territory.

Arriving in the wake of such a hulking marketing campaign should leave any resultant movie scuttling apologetically behind, embarrassed about making such a fuss and meakly failing to deliver. Since the first infuriatingly spare trailer hit cinemas, anyone with a phone line and keyboard has been trying to piece together this mystery from soft drink adverts, smudgy photos and red herrings. The big secret, as we all should have predicted, is that there is no big secret. Cloverfield showed its hand from the off, but it’s the way in which it plays that hand that causes it to win big.

The brainchild of producer JJ Abrams and director Matt Reeves couldn’t be simpler in story. A big monster attacks a city so a guy, and his friends, sets off to get his gal and get outta town, pre-squashing. We’ve seen it on screens since man first discovered the alchemy of rubber suit and model village, but never with quite the same immediacy and all-encompassing horror.

After a sly intro in which we learn this entire film was found on a site “formerly known as Central Park”, we meet our hero Rob (Michael Stahl-David), his secret love Beth (Odette Yustman) and, more importantly, his video camera, as they enjoy a day together. Then we head to a party to mark his departure for a new life in Japan. Here the camera is handed over to the cheerfully dorkish, occasionally irritating, Hud (T J Miller), our eyes for the next hour. The festivities are rudely interrupted when something explodes downtown and decapitates the Statue of Liberty. It’s a sequence that horrifies more than a simple monster arrival should, particularly since we haven’t seen him yet.

Is this attack so terrifying because it has obvious shades of 9/11 or because the handheld camerawork leaves us disoriented, glimpsing the enormous creature only when Hud’s view quivers that way? It’s both. We live in a time when global violence is recorded not by professionals, but by shaky-handed bystanders with camera phones. We believe bad camerawork and suspect professional broadcast of hiding something from us. Stripped of the comfort of rhythmic editing and frenzied strings that tell us it’s time to be scared and instead served the sort of frantic footage we associate with unfathomable terror brings a new, more primal fear to the monster movie. It starts, bizarrely, to feel like something that could happen.

Reeves, who’s been near anonymous in the pre-release hype, is masterful at choosing shots without appearing to do so. We view this unlovely goliath from all angles – a fleeting leg here, full-length in crafty helicopter shots on news footage there – but he’s even more effective as an unseen presence. There’s equal, if not more, dread in hearing furious roars as our band cowers in a side street, watching the military throwing everything they have uselessly at the beast. This is as much a triumph of sound design as of seamlessly blended CG and unsettling camerawork.

Wise to the fact that the most frightening attack is the one without apparent reason, Cloverfield never chooses to explain its monster’s arrival. It’s suddenly there and, as one soldier notes, “it’s winning”. It intends to scare, not educate. The constant air of panic is so pervasive that it’s easy to miss the skilful creation of the sequences, which include a rescue from a collapsing skyscraper and a tunnel sequence so butt-clenching you’ll crap diamonds for a week.

There will undoubtedly be those who don’t enjoy it, and some will have probably decided on that before seeing a frame. Anti-populist party poopers could very well pick apart the fact that the characters are archetypes and that there’s no hidden depth beneath the fright (although you could pub rant for hours about political subtext). But unmissable cinema does not have to be about mellifluous dialogue, intricate framing or enriching the mind or soul. It can just as legitimately come from a sensory experience like no other, that you can feel nowhere else but in that dark room in front of that silver screen. And you have never experienced anything like Cloverfield.


Verdict
A dazzling experiment that paid off immensely, this is cinematic pleasure at its purest. One caveat: If they ever make a sequel, we’re taking two stars back.


Reviewed by Olly Richards

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Cloverfield
Empire Star Rating

Awesome Movie!!!!

this is without any doubt at all one of the best monster movies i have ever seen and everyones problem is the hand held camera and the hype. a lot of people hates the fact that you supposingly don't learn anything you are not supposed to, what do you think that a little scientist is going to pop out and tell you everything about everything that would ruin the whole eerieness of the film. the special effects were fantastic the monster was so scary and stop making it out that a hand held movie is ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by *Dyn0mitedeck* at 13:02, 03 October 2013 | Report This Post


Awesome Movie!!!!

this is without any doubt at all one of the best monster movies i have ever seen and everyones problem is the hand held camera and the hype. a lot of people hates the fact that you supposingly don't learn anything you are not supposed to, what do you think that a little scientist is going to pop out and tell you everything about everything that would ruin the whole eerieness of the film. the special effects were fantastic the monster was so scary and stop making it out that a hand held movie is ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by *Dyn0mitedeck* at 13:02, 03 October 2013 | Report This Post


Cloverfield

The realism is missing from the equation, but Cloverfield is an effiective thriller that gives Godzilla a run for it's money. The story pulls not only the characters, but the audience as well, into an 85 minute nightmare that just won't end. And it's one hell of a nightmare! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by norgizfox at 01:52, 19 July 2012 | Report This Post


Something Has Found Us

This is, without a doubt, one of the most simplistic yet astonishing films made to date. Although the monster has been around for decades, CLOVERFIELD makes it feel like an all new experience. You don't need fancy dialouge, big named actors and all-guns-blazzing action. All you need are realistic people in an almost siege-type setting. The characters in this film feel real. You can sympathise with the characters created here. That is a rare thing now. So it is clear how good this is. In a word: ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lostboys96 at 20:37, 03 February 2012 | Report This Post


5 stars seriously?

were you watching the right film, no critic in the right mind would give this boring stupid nonesance 5 stars, and its also got 77% on rotten tomatoes which is a real overstatement ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jordan thomas at 18:01, 31 January 2012 | Report This Post


Ace...

Cloverfield is a brilliant thriller experience without doubt. Possessing such tension and dread, you wouldnt be able to take your eyes from it. Even if why the camera is taken everywhere seems abit unrealistic, you couldnt deny the ride it takes you. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by trainedasninja at 12:16, 16 October 2011 | Report This Post


Cloverfield is a well conceived and executed idea, one which also benefits from not out-staying its welcome, only running for 81 minutes. It’s certainly a movie which should remain a one-off though, but it probably won’t. It will be copied and retold over an over until the point is lost. Saying thing that though, we must recognise that the ‘found footage’ style has grown out films such as Cannibal Holocaust and The Blair Witch Project. Perhaps it is the “Blair Wi... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by neopol at 09:57, 03 June 2011 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: Trunk Monkeey I think they should bring out Cloverfield 2 where the monster fights godzilla yeah it would be worth seeing ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheGreenPlanet at 15:22, 19 April 2011 | Report This Post


Fantastic

This is the best hand held cemera films to date. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 11:27, 06 March 2011 | Report This Post


Asolutely fantastic. Original. Scary. Action packed. Visually stunning. Godzilla meets The Blair Witch Project. cloverfield is a classic film. The creature is brilliantly designed and the tunnel sequence is so tense and thrilling. Also shows the likes of Roland Emmirech that seeing a horse carry a destoyed carriage through an empty street is a much better and creepier way of showing apocalyptic destruction. And the little bit at the end where you see something crash into the sea. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by stevolegendbauer at 12:46, 12 August 2010 | Report This Post


Great stuff

First viewings the best, but I really do love this film ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by monkeyhumour at 10:50, 09 August 2010 | Report This Post


Great stuff

First viewings the best, but I really do love this film ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by monkeyhumour at 10:49, 09 August 2010 | Report This Post


Great stuff

First viewings the best, but I really do love this film ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by monkeyhumour at 10:48, 09 August 2010 | Report This Post


Cloverfield: Twisting On The Stereotypes.

After watching this film over 10 times for a case study it does get very dull but the first time I watched it I was impressed on how much they twist your expectations, with a film like this the audience expects the monster to die and everyone to live but fortunately it doesn't, they build the emotional relationship up with key characters and when they go it just works. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by LUCASLITTLEWOOD at 21:53, 11 July 2010 | Report This Post


See review.....

Utter, utter gash. Horrible, horrible script, implausible storyline, deeply unsatisfying and hammier the longer it goes on. Who rates the films on Empire? Is this several peoples opinion collective, or is someone actually paid for this? I would compare the job the Empire staff are doing rating films to that of a Wall Street banker - a bit unsatisfactory no? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by beanimcbeanerson at 01:20, 28 June 2010 | Report This Post


See review.....

Utter, utter gash. Horrible, horrible script, implausible storyline, deeply unsatisfying and hammier the longer it goes on. Who rates the films on Empire? Is this several peoples opinion collective, or is someone actually paid for this? I would compare the job the Empire staff are doing rating films to that of a Wall Street banker - a bit unsatisfactory no? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by beanimcbeanerson at 01:20, 28 June 2010 | Report This Post


Terrifying, Very Tenseful.

Cloverfield was a random choice on TV last night and boy, was I glad to see it. Within ten minutes or so, the viewer sees the people they have to remain with throughout the movie. Once the attacks begin, the tenison and the terror grows to a almighty high that you're on the edge of your seat. The ending is left up to the viewer to figure out what could happen, there shouldn't be a sequel because it just dosen't need it. One to to really check out if you can handle a camcorder film without throwi... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by joanna likes films at 15:00, 08 June 2010 | Report This Post


Terrific!

OK, not worthy of five stars, but this is still terrific filmmaking and is the most realisticly and utterly terrifying horror movie since 'The Blair Witch Project', making a worthy addition to the shaky hanycam genre. Just give it a try. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by !xHoTRoDx! at 17:59, 06 May 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Cloverfield

L: shawshank prisoner OMG, five stars? who saw that coming?! i'm more excited about this film than ever now... although it sounds like teh sort of film that'll drop a star or two by the time it's reviewed on dvd by someone else. his movie was almost worthless the acting was hammy ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by flushedgordon at 13:12, 06 May 2010 | Report This Post


Sadly no 0 star rating available...

I have to disagree about as strongly as is humanly possible with Olly. i found this film one of the worst films i have ever seen. in terms of script it is laughable, people simply do not talk like this in real life. Now i am a fan of the handicam view, see Blair Witch and a lot of "the Descent" (a fantastic horror film) however to say this film is "original" does not sit well with me. Firstly a big monster attacks a major city... nothing new there... done on handicam filming.... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by smoggy1985 at 18:43, 10 November 2009 | Report This Post


Sadly no 0 star rating available...

I have to disagree about as strongly as is humanly possible with Olly. i found this film one of the worst films i have ever seen. in terms of script it is laughable, people simply do not talk like this in real life. Now i am a fan of the handicam view, see Blair Witch and a lot of "the Descent" (a fantastic horror film) however to say this film is "original" does not sit well with me. Firstly a big monster attacks a major city... nothing new there... done on handicam filming.... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by smoggy1985 at 18:43, 10 November 2009 | Report This Post


Puke-tastic

People complained that this movie made them feel sick. My poor girlfriend ended up just burying her head in her hands at the cinema. Ok I agree there were a couple of monets when I felt a bit giddy - but that only added to the effect. Made me feel disorientated. My girlfriend always says - why would he still be holding on tot hat camera? Good question I suppose. I reason that holding it becomes a kind of obsession. Let's hope that cloverfield 2 delivers ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Smootle at 14:44, 20 September 2009 | Report This Post


dull and boring

Well that's 80 minutes of my life i'm never getting back. Perhaps Empire should try removing their collective heads from JJ Abrams arse and watching again, this was a poor version of Godzilla which - let's face it - sucked. First thing you do when a giant monster is attacking is drop the ferking camcorder and run for your life. Absolutely pointless film with no redeeming features at all. I think maybe Empire reviewed the marketing campaign and forgot to review the film. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ovverbruv at 18:02, 25 June 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Are you on crack?

Great film, kinda sad seing New York being absolutely demolished like that but ah well! felt kinda quesy after it ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Kyuzo at 13:06, 09 May 2009 | Report This Post


Garbage!

So ANNOYING! Who's going to run around with a camcorder for hours in those circumstances. Also, no fear or tension. Garbage! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Noseblow at 11:50, 28 April 2009 | Report This Post


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