Photo from Cloverfield

If you haven’t heard about this movie, you will. Produced by J.J. Abrams (Mission: Impossible 3, TV series Lost, and yes, Felicity), Cloverfield takes hand-held filmmaking to a whole new level. Those of you with tendencies towards motion sickness will probably want to skip this film. But the rest of you: read on.

The movie’s your typical doomsday, “let’s destroy New York on camera for the umpteenth time,” special effects blockbuster, right? Wrong. It may have special effects, and NYC certainly gets its ass handed to it (again), but that’s where the similarities end.

The real story lies in the experience of those behind the camera, and since I’m a guy who likes to take photos and video events, it’s freaky how realistic the story comes across. No famous actors, no cheesy sets, just out-and-out insane events happening in front of your very eyes camera lens.

Photo from Cloverfield (2)

The technical achievement alone is incredible — hand-held films are done primarily to give style to extremely low budget films (Hi, Blair Witch Project? We found your cinematographer), because otherwise the audience will notice your crappy costumes, sets, and acting. But Cloverfield is a big-budget venture, and inserting CGI shots into this kind of footage is a massive undertaking.

Alongside the impossibly difficult SFX is the editing which, hands down, puts films like 300 to shame. See, a hand-held camera has free range of motion, where typical motion pictures are shot with the tried-and-true steadycam/tripod/dolly technology that keeps the picture looking nice and steady. You take that away, and getting the right shot becomes a nightmare. Here, the cameraman frames some incredibly touching moments without feeling Hollywood-esque. I must sound crazy, but I’m serious — this IS technical achievement.

Photo from Cloverfield (3)

Okay, enough about the geek side. I really cared about these characters, felt their suspense, suffering, the whole nine yards. The story may appear to be just another in a line of clichés, but give it a chance. I think you’ll be impressed; and this early in the year, that’s a very good sign.

My Rating: ★★★★

(View the Movie Trailer)

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