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|The Cloverfield Paradox
dir Julius Onah
scr Oren Uziel
prd JJ Abrams, Lindsey Weber
with Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Elizabeth Debicki, David Oyelowo, Daniel Bruhl, Chris O'Dowd, Zhang Ziyi, Aksel Hennie, John Ortiz, Roger Davies, Clover Nee, Donal Logue, Suzanne Cryer
release US/UK 4.Feb.18
18/US Netflix 1h42
Earth is missing: Oyelowo, Bruhl and Mbatha-Raw
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
A strongly emotional undertone helps bring this sci-fi thriller to life, as a solid cast finds deeper, darker resonances in a fairly thin story. While the horror beats are cliched (loud noises, inexplicable visuals), the characters and situation are enjoyable as long as you don't expect a Cloverfield movie, whatever that is. And there are some superbly nightmarish moments along the way, mostly nods to Alien.
With the advent of a space-based particle accelerator, earth's politically destabilising energy crisis may finally have a solution. So the seven-person international crew is frustrated when the system fails, and they become increasingly demoralised after spending two years trying to fix it. Then after firing it up again, they are shocked to discover themselves alone in space, with earth nowhere to be found. And when they discover a woman (Debicki) in the machinery, they realise that reality itself has been fractured. Meanwhile on earth, some sort of invasion is underway.
The title refers to a scientist's (Logue) theory that the accelerator could fracture the space-time continuum. Uziel's offbeat script echoes the rumours of war on earth among the crew's nationalities, building a web of interpersonal tensions and camaraderie in a confined space. The script tries to add another layer by crosscutting between the space station and the chaos on earth, but that never feels like anything more than a pointless distraction.
Each of the actors is excellent, adding specific quirks to his or her character that make them far more interesting than the rather random script indicates. Mbatha-Raw anchors the film with an edgy emotionality that takes on an extra layer when she connects with Debicki's haunted interloper; both are excellent. Oyelowo brings sturdiness as the no-nonsense mission commander, while O'Dowd adds some sardonic charm, Ortiz a hint of soul. And Bruhl and Zhang supply their own unexpected textures. The most thankless roles belong to Davies and Nee, trying to survive on earth.
The twisty narrative is a lot of fun, forcing the viewer to hang on as it snakes through a series of bizarre revelations, playing with ideas of multiple dimensions and possible futures. The political element nicely grounds the story in the present-day, giving us something to think about even as we're being freaked out by the mind-bending silliness. And while it all kind of boils down to a somewhat straightforward thriller, it's at least entertaining, even if the scares aren't terribly original.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S
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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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