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I’ve seen a few critics recommending minimal knowledge of Cloverfield going into the movie, and I think that’s right. It’s also a sign that it’s a gimmick movie. That’s not a pejorative, since there’s nothing wrong with gimmick movies, but you always have to ask: does the gimmick contribute to the story?

In this case, since the story’s more about how people react to the giant monster eating New York City than it is about the monster, I think the answer’s yes. To the degree that Cloverfield doesn’t succeed, it’s not any fault of the found footage conceit. Rather, it’s that the characters aren’t all that interesting, excepting our primary cameraman Hud. They aren’t boring, per se. I cheered for them. I just wouldn’t have been cheering if it hadn’t been a monster movie.

No question but that it was enjoyable, however. The craft of the movie is superb; what this gains over The Blair Witch Project is choice. A good cinematographer thought about what he could get out of the camera and executed really well. There’s some cute stuff with earlier recorded material that also works nearly perfectly.

And damn, it’s a scary monster. Great design; it’s menacing and terrifying and unstoppable in the correct measure. The 9/11 parallels are pretty clear, in that we’re going to inevitably draw them, but the movie acknowledges them deliberately in the opening scenes and I think that pulls any fangs there might be.

Well worth the movie ticket. Bring Dramamine if you get sick easily.

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