312. The Cloverfield Paradox

★★★

It feels more like an extended “Black Mirror” episode than a full-blown film, but “The Cloverfield Paradox” is entertaining and gripping enough to keep us charged throughout. Characters here are finely crafted, its space-time rules as rigid as gravity itself. And with enough metaphorical and metaphysical musings to fill an identical dimension, this flick will make you scream just as much as it will make you think.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars as Hamilton, a crew member aboard the Cloverfield Station in the year 2028. The planet is facing a global energy crisis, and the Cloverfield crew are testing something called a Shepard particle accelerator as a potential solution to the conflict. When Hamilton and crew test the device, things get topsy turvy,  literally, as they find out they’ve been flung into a mirror dimension, occupied by mirror versions of themselves.

The movie then takes on a hybrid sci-fi, horror and thriller identity, toying and experimenting with the tropes each genre. We get body-switching, a self-possessed hand, a murder revenge story, and occasional glimpses of monsters running amok on earth. It’s a fun exercise and worthy for trying to go on a double-date with “Alien” and “Godzilla.” But the film can feel nauseatingly long at times, where we find ourselves pausing just to see how much time is left.

Director Julius Onah gives the movie enough of a confident, visual edge to keep us grounded even when things are flying out of control, and Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo, Daniel Bruhl, John Ortiz, Chris O’Dowd, Ziyi Zhang, and Elizabeth Debicki give unextraordinary but still damn good performances. We find ourselves not loving them, but liking them enough to hang out with for 90 minutes.

The ending is unfocused and kind of has its head in the clouds, attempting to pull off what was once a M. Night Shymalan-type twist, and now is just a generic “Cloverfield” encore. It’s something that makes you take the film less seriously, but also makes you realize this wasn’t worth taking seriously in the first place.

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