Director: Julius Onah
Cast: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Daniel Bruhl, David Oweloyo, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris O’Dowd, Zhang Ziyi, Roger Davies, John Ortiz, Aksel Hennie
Plot: As Earth runs out of power sources, sparking poverty and war, a team of scientists attempt a risky procedure to give their planet infinite energy.
Cloverfield have done it again. The production team behind the dark horse of cinema don’t as much market their movie, as sell it to us through anti-marketing. Not a whisper of a third film in production and then out of nowhere a trailer snuck into the Superbowl. And the actual film released onto Netflix as soon as the Superbowl ended, a mere two hours after we realised it was even a thing. It is so bafflingly alternative that it draws in interest from not trying too hard. Like a member of the opposite sex playing hard to get, Cloverfield is so damn irresistible.
And following the footsteps of 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Cloverfield Paradox is as vague a sequel as ever, not mentioning the monsters/aliens/who even knows? It doesn’t even really feature on Earth predominantly, instead coming across as the kind of claustrophobic Sci-Fi thriller that echoes the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey or Alien. A group of scientists are attempting something risky in space and it, rather predictably, goes wrong. But exactly how it goes wrong or how badly their situation is isn’t immediately clear. The film is constantly avoiding connecting any kind of dots. If you were convinced, Cloverfield was about to start playing it straight, you would expect some sort of monster to leap out at the cast at any given moment, created by this awry experiment. However, the writers don’t go with anything quite that easy, constantly playing with your expectations. A distant noise sounds like the beginnings of an Alien copycat movie, but the reveal to the origins of the guttural screaming is hard-hitting in its own way, made even more deliciously disturbing by how left-field the shock is. The early criticism of The Cloverfield Paradox is a little harsh, probably due to the fact that the rug is being pulled out from under you a little too often. Those wanting to get back to the monster movie origins of the first film might feel a little like a mouse being played with by a cat. The scientist angle gives the allusion that this is the prequel that will explain away everything. You can kind of see why Netflix ended up with the third film, the narrative matching their slow-burning roundabout way of telling stories. However, as with 10 Cloverfield Lane, the best thing to do is step away from any concept of this being a Cloverfield film. What we are left with is a bloody good movie. Exposition is handled early on with some key cinematography (nationalities to each crew member are stitched on their uniforms, computers flash out how many days they have been away from Earth). It means that we can get to know the crew straight away, making them more three-dimensional than we usually get with these types of films. Gugu Mbatha-Raw in particular is astonishingly brilliant as the lead heroine with the kind of internal dilemmas that put the chaotic space carnage into the background. What follows is a nail-biting thriller that constantly shocks, misdirects and impresses. We are left wondering what Cloverfield will get up to next. Whatever it may be, it is bound to be darn good.
Final Verdict: Another example of brilliant, alternative film-making, refusing to be what you want it to be and glorious for that reason.