Combustible Celluloid
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With: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo, Daniel Brühl, John Ortiz, Chris O'Dowd, Aksel Hennie, Zhang Ziyi, Elizabeth Debicki, Roger Davies, Donal Logue
Written by: Oren Uziel, based on a story by Oren Uziel, Doug Jung
Directed by: Julius Onah
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 102
Date: 02/12/2018

The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Up in Arms

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The third movie in the Cloverfield series deflects attention from its regular "giant monster" and instead focuses on an odd, unstable mishmash of moods and tones, gamely held together by a fine cast.

In The Cloverfield Paradox, the earth is running out of resources and a desperate mission is launched to fire a particle accelerator and create new forms of energy. After months in space, the team — Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), Kiel (David Oyelowo), Schmidt (Daniel Bruhl), Monk (John Ortiz), Mundy (Chris O'Dowd), Volkov (Aksel Hennie), and Tam (Zhang Ziyi) — manage to pull off this task.

But they also find that they have ripped open the fabric of space and time and emerged in a different dimension. Strange things begin happening. A tank of worms disappears, a woman appears inside a wall, and Mundy's arm vanishes. The ship is also damaged, and crew member begin facing unexpected dangers while repairing it. It all leads up to another attempt at firing the accelerator, and perhaps returning home.

Released suddenly, unexpectedly on Netflix the evening of the 2018 Super Bowl, The Cloverfield Paradox is a step down from the original Cloverfield (2008), a found-footage monster movie, and 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016), a paranoid, hiding-in-a-bunker thriller. Without spoiling much, it does have a connection to the giant monster, but perhaps not quite as satisfying as the two predecessors.

Based around a cautionary tale of a depleting world gone mad, the main structure of the movie revolves around the "alternate reality" idea. Yet with a universe of infinite possibility at their disposal, the filmmakers stick to some pretty basic horror, thriller, and comedy ideas. It's small potatoes, not exactly terrible, but off-putting and screwy.

The best thing about the movie, however, is its great cast, with O'Dowd earning the majority of the laughs, having fun with his disembodied arm. Mbatha-Raw gives the movie an emotional center, missing her husband at home and mourning her lost children, and Oyelowo, Bruhl, and Ziyi lend the movie a certain dignity.

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