Harry Ridgway’s review published on Letterboxd:
Tremulously but vividly encapsulating the bonafide horror of an unprecedented circumstance, Cloverfield is a technically proficient and partially novel exercise in fusing authenticity with science-fiction. Atmospherically strong with disarray and peril, the intensity is unremitting thanks largely to the plot's tautness and rapidity. So when a film has all these laudable facets, it is exceedingly bothersome to find such potential and aptitude undermined by nauseating characters who fail to include an ounce of realism and instead become head-bangingly' awful catalysts. Just drop the camera for God's sake and run!
Constructing the protagonists and their frenetic lives is the foundation of Cloverfield's opening half hour - and my word is it haphazardly scripted. Not only are these twenty-something's clichéd and hollow but they're dedicated far more screen time to manufacture their bland personalities than what is required. The creation of rifts and disputes brewing in this intimate group is tedious and the fact that the film doesn't concisely establish the dynamics of these relationships adds extra doses of monotony. So, it may come as no surprise to say that when the first BANG! inserts itself into the narrative, it's quite invigorating.
The first act essentially drags on to the point where you may start to think the discs have been swapped and a stale indie drama about conflicted youths is filling your screen. As aforementioned however, once we witness the initial rumble that reverberates through Manhattan, we can take a deep breath and submerge into the sweaty-palmed ambiance. If you can manage to disregard the fact that the rationale behind Hud (haha, very clever) carrying the camera is utterly nonsensical, there are a lot of positives scattered throughout the 85 minutes.
The cinematography teases the root of all bedlam in a fashion which is not frustratingly artificial but rather naturalistic and organic. The camera plausibly sways back and forth and whilst some scenes are obviously too meticulously assembled, the over-arching home video aesthetic is a successful and dizzyingly intense style of storytelling; and what comes with this method is a horrifying sense of scope. The camera pans over vast buildings which crumble and explode and the gargantuan and remarkable scale of destruction occurring in this city is confined strikingly between the four corners.
The final reveal of this savage decimator may not be overwhelmingly stimulating, but it does showcase some dexterous creature design which features enough idiosyncrasies to become synonymous with solely Cloverfield. Unfortunately, even the monster's characterization is shallow. I realize its a monster film that predominantly focuses its skill on the visuals (and sadly the characters), but even some vague themes about the creature's morality and its motivation for popping up in Manhattan on this particular night would have been refreshing and memorable.
The performances are generally fine if a tad insipid in parts. Granted, the material supplied is lacklustre but still there are no riveting screen presences - save for possibly Lizzy Caplan who's quite good in a thankless role. If there is a positive to the script's treatment of characters, it is that it's not afraid to play fast and loose with anyone's life. Deaths are as sudden as they can be and whilst the eventual survivors were blatantly labelled as that before the monster appeared, they were, dare I say it, convincing with their resilience.
Cloverfield is technically impressive and allows Matt Reeves and his squad to experiment with the visuals in mildly innovative ways. The structuring is tight and the aura of an impending cataclysm is impressively formulated. But my word are these characters uninspired and obnoxiously irritating. A very conflicted and inconsistent monster flick.
"Oh my God!" (x100)
Side-note: This next little review comes from my friend, Alby. He was very drunk when writing this as you will be able to deduce. I have cleaned it up a little, but here it is (he really wanted me to include this):
Cloverfield is the s***. Y'all should get your b**** ass into the hot dang movie theater and watch this mother******. Cause this b**** is damn cool.