Given my previous two picks – Gomorrah and Lust, Caution – my choice for the best film of 2008 may seem like an odd one. Cloverfield is, after all, an Americanized take on the Godzilla genre, filmed entirely on handheld camera and aimed squarely at a Hollywood blockbuster audience. But I don’t think that necessarily disqualifies it from movie-greatness: Cloverfield is, in its own way a truly brilliant film.
As the film opens we are told we are watching a camcorder video, recovered by the US military from an ‘incident’ site known as “Cloverfield”. First we see a happy couple spending the day together; then we cut to the preparations for a going-away party. During the party, something attacks New York and the city is plunged into chaos. The party-goers flee the apartment, but the camcorder is kept on, capturing the terrifying events that follow…
Cloverfield succeeds completely as a genre film, keeping you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. It also wins points for its innovative style, telling the story of a disaster entirely from the camcorder-point of view of a small group, and lasting the exact same time as a real DV tape. The feeling of panic that envelopes the whole film is almost overwhelming, such is the skill with which it is put together. But while Cloverfield’s only real intention is to scare you, it is also more than simply a monster movie: the implicit parallels with 9-11, though entirely unforced, give the film a powerful and unexpected resonance.
Watch the trailer here