Released: 5th February 2018
Seen: 5th February 2018
Directed by: Julius Onah
Written by: Oren Uziel & Dong Jung
Produced by: Bad Robot & Paramount Pictures
Starring: Elizabeth Debicki, Daniel Brühl, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Chris O’Dowd, Ziyi Zhang, David Oyelowo, John Ortizm, Aksel Henniem & Roger Davies
Well, this came right the hell out of nowhere.
To say that we all just got a shock to the system would be an understatement. This is a tactic that people have only seen done in the music world, most famously with Beyonce just deciding to drop an album with no warning whatsoever and it blowing everyone out of the water. Well, Netflix just proved that it can do the same thing and we got something special out of this. The third part of the Cloverfield series takes the horror to a new place, now we get to see how it all started and do our little not to Aliens while we’re at it. In a moment of brilliance, Netflix just put one ad out during the Superbowl to tell everyone this was happening and then dropped the movie on our laps and let us witness just what they can do when they’re firing on all cylinders.
The Cloverfield Paradox takes place on a ship with one job, to find a new way to create power that could help out on earth. When one of their tests goes horribly wrong the crew discovers two things, the first is that they seem to have misplaced the planet earth and the second is that there’s suddenly a woman in the wall of the ship. From there, things just get weirder and weirder with the crew trying to figure out just how they can get back to earth, which is also currently undergoing its own bout of strangeness, something we know about because the partner of one of the space crew is trying to help however he can while the world around him appears to be under attack.
To call this film a shocker would just be to restate my opening lines but can I just say how stunning this film looks? Every single shot is a piece of artwork, even the most horrific moments have a beauty in them that works wonderfully with the tone of the film. Little touches like the rotating lights in certain rooms or the interior of the hallways were mesmerising and made sure that it was impossible to not just stare at everything, so when they wanted to shock you your face is right up close for maximum impact. There are so many little visual details that I loved in this film, including the subtle decision to make sure every shot on earth is done in a shaky handheld style while the shots on the ship are much more fluid and crisp. It’s something so subtle but it’s a wonderful nod to the original that helps propel the film to new heights. Some of the CGI is a little shaky, especially at the very end, but for the most part, it’s so well shot that you’re completely engrossed from the very first moment.
It also helps that they got a phenomenal cast, especially Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Hamilton who carries the film with ease, presenting a beautifully conflicted character who has gone through some of the most heartbreaking losses anyone could go through and is presented the chance to get back what she lost. Every scene with her is amazing, especially her speech right at the end. She is the heart of this film and it’s so amazing to see her go through everything. We also get some great comedic relief from Chris O’Dowd as Mundy who really does keep the tone from getting too dark and intense which it absolutely could’ve done without him there. David Oyelowo as the commander has possibly the most brilliant scene in the film (Far as I’m concerned) and while I won’t spoil what it is, I will state that you will witness him tear your heart out and break it in half because he makes the most difficult decision you can make and it’s perfect. I developed a particular soft spot for Ziyi Zhang who plays Tam, a no-nonsense character who speaks entirely in Mandarin. I know this shouldn’t seem like a big deal but it really is, seeing a cast that is multi-racial and multi-lingual interacting with such ease is something that should be in more films, here it’s absolutely effortlessly put in and I love it. This is the kind of sci fi film that we deserve because this cast really does feel like it could represent everyone, meaning that when everything goes to hell we all feel some connection to someone and thus the horror feels more real. Plus it’s just nice to see a major Sci-Fi film with a woman of colour as the lead and a cast made up of every kind of person.
The story and scripting in this film are great, it’s complicated and you have to pay attention to catch everything they’re doing but it’s wonderfully done. I keep thinking back to 10 Cloverfield Lane which had a very similar idea where the actual horror was the people and not what was going on outside and it’s very similar here, you’ll notice that the most horrific moments in the film don’t even involve the creatures and that feels very intentional at the script level. They set things up perfectly in order to create some pretty effective scares, while also making sure that we can feel the chaos that the paradox has created. It’s a tightrope that they walk and very rarely stumbles. I honestly couldn’t pick a flaw in the construction of the film if I tried, except for the very last shot. I’m not even joking when I say the last 5-10 seconds of the film made me a little annoyed because it felt tacked on, but hell the final scare is such a staple of horror now that I assume they felt like it was mandatory. It’s not, it’s actually kind of goofy and took me out at the end, but if 99.9 percent of the film is flawless then I’m not going to get too mad at one shot being a little off.
The Cloverfield Paradox pulled off something special here. It not only shocked everyone by seemingly appearing out of nowhere but it managed to create a new way to tell a horror story in space. Filled with characters that delight, a clever script and the best visuals I’ve seen this year, it’s an absolute must watch for anyone.