Matt Reeves Films Ranked

4. Cloverfield (2008)

Cloverfield Review

A group of friends are documenting a leaving party in New York City when their celebrations are interrupted by a huge mysterious creature suddenly attacking the city, causing chaos and destruction. The group sets out on a harrowing journey through the city’s ravaged streets, encountering terrifying creatures and facing their own fears as they try to survive and find a way to escape.

Released 12 years after The Pallbearer, Cloverfield feels like the work of a different director. Told from the perspective of the handheld camera, the film is a suspenseful tale of survival in the face of a monstrous threat. The action is intense and the set pieces are enthralling. It’s Reeves’ skilful pacing and editing that keeps us on the edge of our seats. The early party scene, for example, establishes an uneasiness that beautifully permeates the rest of the film. Reeves retains the care he showed on The Pallbearer, but now comes across like a seasoned storyteller.

Where this film will ultimately fail for many viewers is with their suspension of disbelief regarding the found-footage aspect. While many would disregard this form as a gimmick, there are many instances where it is used effectively, such as the dread of The Blair Witch Project and more recently Searching. Cloverfield falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. It is definitely one of the better uses of the approach but still suffers many of the pitfalls of weaker efforts. The film never convinces you why the people are still filming. In addition, the camera remaining steady while the characters are running is distracting, along with the constant snarky narration of the paper thin characters.

Regardless, Cloverfield’s brisk runtime means it doesn’t outstay its welcome. It warrants some intellectual merit too, as it can be interpreted as an exploration of Hollywood in a post-9/11 world and the west’s anxieties of a foreign threat.

Recommended for you: 10 Best Found-Footage Horror Movies

3. War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

War for the Planet of the Apes concludes the story of Caesar, the leader of a community of intelligent apes, as he faces off against a human military faction in a desperate battle for survival. After a devastating attack by humans, led by the relentless Colonel played by Woody Harrelson, Caesar sets out on a journey to avenge his kind and protect his remaining family. As the conflict escalates, Caesar must confront his own inner demons and make difficult choices that will ultimately determine the fate of both apes and humans in the war for dominance on Earth.

It’s the best looking film in the recent Planet Apes trilogy due to its stunning snowy landscapes some of the greatest CGI ever produced. The apes are rendered with stunning detail and realism, making each snowdrop on their hair tangible.

Andy Serkis’ motion-capture performance brings Caesar to life with incredible nuance, capturing the character’s internal struggles, intelligence, and emotional depth. Watching his arc begin in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and conclude here results in one of cinema’s greatest characters, with Reeves and Serkis knowing exactly how to give him a virtuous send off. The bond between Caesar and his fellow apes is palpable, and their plight as they face human aggression and oppression is both heart-wrenching and inspiring.

War isn’t quite as strong as the other entries in the trilogy. There’s a cheap death scene which feels unnecessary and doesn’t offer much payoff. If the build up was given greater focus and we were made to care for the character, then this could have been an emotionally resonant moment, but unfortunately the death plays like a plot device to add some second act drama. Additionally, the human character Nova is underutilised, despite being a fun nod to the original 1968 film.

War for the Planet of the Apes is a worthy conclusion to the story fans had invested in with the previous two instalments. It is thought-provoking in regards to human nature, the effects of war, and the price of vengeance. The care that Reeves and company bring to the film makes it one of the best trilogy cappers in recent years.

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