Look at the traditional monster movie and you will notice that the camera rarely ducks down to street level unless it wants to show cars being trampled or soldiers being stomped. It's a cut intended to show scale, to show how the people 'on the ground' are getting trashed along with the buildings and bridges.
Films like Godzilla (the classic version or the awful remake) and Independence Day will focus on the macro-level destruction. We see it all from a Presidential perspective. Lots of Generals and scientists theorising, and lots of heroes doing whatever it takes.
What Cloverfield does is to show the buildings, bridges and tanks getting clobbered from a single viewpoint, that of emergency cameraman 'Hud', one of the dull and helpless meatbags who populate the film.
Hud is just a guy, just a regular doofus like most people. He is press-ganged into filming his friend's leaving-do as he departs for a life in Japan (a nod to Godzilla surely) and all of a sudden the city of New York is under attack. As usual, news of what the hell is going on is slow to emerge. Out in the streets there is chaos, the severed and brutalised head of the Statue of Liberty slams into the tarmac and skids to a halt as people scream. We are right there with them, watching the pall of smoke descend as a building falls.
Cloverfield is a mixture of films and genres. Godzilla, Blair Witch Project, even current events like 9/11; all are brewed together to form a truly gripping and engaging action film. Many of the cliches of the genre are here - sudden jumps, cheesy 'we have to go back' motives, and some great don't-look-back moments.
It speaks volumes when people are as critical of the plot of Cloverfield as they have been. Why are we expecting a detailed story arc in a film that doesn't even break the ninety minute mark? Because we demand more and more from films, rightly so, but are also more and more cynical and unhappy even when faced with something as exciting as this.
The first twenty consist of nothing more than a rather dull party scene with a group of unintelligent but typical young professionals. Media haircuts and hip looking trousers abound. Yes, this is New York alright. This calm before the storm is absolutely mandatory for the film to make sense, for the notions of the everyday being overturned. The tedious normalcy of these people's lives is interrupted forever by The Monster.
The next hour is non-stop, very tense, and features a few nifty twists and some genuinely thrilling set pieces. The creature itself is genuinely awe-inspiring, and commands the screen every time we catch a glimpse of it (don't worry, you see more of it as the film goes on) with a surprisingly enjoyable ending. Empire magazine criticised the idea of a sequel, frankly the sooner we get to find out more the better.