Godzilla meets YouTube in this corking sci-fi thriller from Lost producer JJ Abrams and director Matt Reeves. Cloverfield's brilliantly simple gimmick is to take a traditional monster movie scenario and shoot the carnage from ground up, using a single camcorder carried by one of the protagonists. The action is relentless: we get five minutes of introductions at a going-away party for chiselled yuppie Rob Hawkins (Michael Stahl-David), then something goes boom in Manhattan and it's wall-to-wall peril.
Rob and his friends emerge from their apartment to discover an unnamed leviathan rampaging among the skyscrapers, decapitating the Statue of Liberty and destroying bridges with a mere flick of its scaly tail. Did it come from outer space? From beneath the sea? Is it the product of some ghastly biological weapons experiment? We never find out, because Cloverfield is the monster movie as seen from the point of view of the innocent bystander. It succeeds brilliantly in reconciling its camcorder verite style with the traditional demands of a big blockbuster. So, there are the usual character arcs and an appreciable three act structure, but they're craftily concealed within the chaotic rush of "found" footage.
"IT'S PROPER SCARY"
This is actually rather comforting, since the scenes of destroyed buildings and panicked crowds have a whiff of authenticity that edges the movie into allegorical territory - it's 9/11 with a big-ass troll-lizard beastie instead of terrorists. That might sound crass, but the film's single-minded focus on the horrors and heroism of survival somehow bypasses any issue of taste. Cloverfield feels like a nightmare dredged up from the 21st century subconscious. It's also an astounding technical achievement: shot in a series of very long, complex takes that never draw attention to themselves, superbly paced, and performed with impressive sincerity by unknown leads. And be warned: it's proper scary.
Cloverfield is out in the UK on 1st February 2008.