Directed by: Julius Onah
Written by: Oren Uziel
Starring: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo, Daniel Brühl, Chris O'Dowd, Ziyi Zhang, Elizabeth Debicki, Roger Davies, Aksel Hennie
Runtime: 102 min
This film tells the story about a group of scientists on a space station with the mission of harnessing a new unlimited energy source since the Earth is suffering from a crisis that can end the planet's energy resources in five years.
This is an extremely difficult review to write. With so high expectations going into this movie and with so many theories on how would the three films be connected, I found myself scratching my head for days. I want to keep this review spoiler-free and I will. However, I might be too vague for my readers who haven't yet seen the movie, so to those people, I say "watch it". If you are a fan of the previous two, you have to watch even if it is the worst film ever (it isn't).
I am going straight to the point. The screenplay is kind of a mess. I love ambiguity, open endings and all sorts of mystery, but The Cloverfield Paradox does all of this in excess. There are so many theories of how the movies are connected that there isn't a clear path to an answer. Anyone can either attack or defend this film, every theory out there has its inconsistencies, therefore it is impossible to identify what is the correct one.
I spent days thinking about it, I read a bunch of online theories and the truth is that there is an abundance of uncertainty. There is a big difference between a story that requires the viewer to think through it in order to fully understand it and a story that literally exposes so much information that it does not give the viewer a definite route to find an explanation.
As of right now, I still can't find a single theory that can't be easily disproven. This movie has so many side-stories crumbled into the major one which only helps to increase the confusion and it all becomes very convoluted. Throughout the film, there are so many details that go unexplained and the movie's logic becomes absurd. I am confused just by writing this review! If it is this hard to explain this film, imagine trying to tie everything in with the others.
I love J.J. Abrams and the marketing is always mind-blowing, but this time it did not work, at all. I rarely say this, but this screenplay needed, at least, 30 minutes more to fully explain everything with no hiccups. Obviously, it needed to be better written as well. There are a lot of lazy and unnecessary exposition scenes, which is something extremely uncommon coming from JJ. Genre-wise, it is nothing I haven't seen before, it is similar to other sci-fi thrillers in space (Alien, Life, ...), but I can work with that as long as it is captivating.
Tonally, the movie sometimes falters. Some jokes fall flat, some work, but all of them feel a bit forced. However, even though the story is a total mess, everything else is perfectly fine. The cast is surprisingly brilliant and they carry the entire thing. Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Hamilton) is the lead and she is flawless. I mean, she is really amazing and her character is definitely the better developed.
Hamilton's tragic backstory is undoubtedly a very well-written one and I even felt emotional during a particular scene near the end. Her subplot is by far the most captivating and the emotional dilemma she has to go through in the last act, is something extremely challenging and it actually stuck with me. "What would I have done in her place?" might be the question that most people are trying to figure out (ignoring the connection between the films, obviously).
The rest of the cast is great and their characters are fairly developed. Elizabeth Debicki (Jensen) portrays the most mysterious character in the movie and, even though she follows a predictable storyline, Debicki does a wonderful job of keeping the audience on the edge of their seats. Julius Onah does a very impressive job directing this film, having in mind that he had to deal with this jumble of a screenplay.
The dialogues follow a natural flow, the action sequences are pretty well-handled and the suspense is held at high levels. The editing has no major flaws, the cinematography is really cool since it gives that claustrophobic, isolated and confined space that I absolutely adore. The score helps the tension and suspense rise, and the pacing is the most important technical aspect since the fast rhythm that it implements never lets the movie have a dull moment, so I always felt entertained throughout the entire runtime.
I love the film's main premise, but the connection between the movies has so many inconsistent theories that I can't grab into one that helps me praise the story. One thing is certain: if I was 100% captivated during the 102 minutes, it is due to the fact that I didn't want to miss a single thing since this is a franchise that I love so much. I really would like to give this a positive rating, but I can't. I am sad for the excess of negative reviews it is getting (I don't think it deserves that many, but I understand that other people can't deal with their high expectations as well as I do), especially because I definitely want to see another film that can bring some sense into all of this.
All in all, The Cloverfield Paradox disappointingly fails to deliver and reach my expectations. A very convoluted story does not help to connect the movies but to develop inconsistent theories easily disproven by the screenplay's mess. For a film with a mind-blowing marketing process, it not only disappointed fans of the franchise but everyone that became interested in it. Genre-wise it is not ground-breaking and it tonally oscillates between well and badly balanced. However, not all is bad. The cast is brilliant and the characters are well-developed, with Gugu delivering a fantastic performance by portraying Hamilton. Technically without major flaws and with a very captivating main premise as well as a fast pacing, which kept me enthralled throughout the whole runtime and wishing for a fourth movie that can finally explain everything.