Chris O’Dowd having as much fun as possible in a very bad film
Playing a character called Mundy, O’Dowd is the best thing about ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’
In the surprise new Netflix film The Cloverfield Paradox Irish actor Chris O’Dowd plays an Irish spaceman named Mundy. We are made immediately aware of the character’s provenance because O’Dowd has a) packed his Moone Boy accent for the trip and b) walks around with a tricolour the size of the Bayeux Tapestry affixed to his uniform.
The Cloverfield Paradox is the latest in the sequence of JJ Abrams-produced movies about giant monsters, inter-dimensional portals and films with the word “Cloverfield” in the title. It isn’t very good but, having been surprised-released at the Super Bowl, it’s on Netflix RIGHT NOW.
So you’ve probably already watched it, which is more than can be said about Phantom Thread.
Its saving grace is that it isn’t very good in the most interesting way possible. There’s a wildly implausible plot about astronauts, all with huge flags taped to their shoulders (our man Mundy is no outlier), yanked into a parallel universe after an experiment goes awry.
My favourite bit – yours too, I suspect – is when O’Dowd is sucked through a bulkhead by evil space gravity and loses an arm.
“Where’s my arm ... oooh. Where’s my bloody arm?,” the star of Moone Boy and The IT Crowd protests mildly, as though he has misplaced his weekly return ticket from Mullingar to Busáras. “Do you think there’s any chance it might grow back?”
The arm later turns up, wriggling along a corridor, and, furnished with pen and paper, scribbles down an important plot point our heroes haven’t copped on to.
Back on earth, meanwhile, the monster from the original 2008 Cloverfield is stomping around laughing in the face of tactical nuclear strikes. It sounds as if I’m almost recommending the film. Perhaps I am.
By far the best thing about The Cloverfield Paradox is obviously the fact that O’Dowd’s character, first Irish person in space since Miles O’Brien locked eyes with a beige jumpsuit across a crowded room, is named “Mundy”.
In our dimension, Mundy is a tousle-haired singer-songwriter from Offaly who had a hit with Galway Girl before Evil Ed Sheeran appropriated the title. Being from Roscommon – Offaly if it was a bit to the left – there is little chance O’Dowd wasn’t aware of the provenance of the name.
Is it possible he may even have suggested “Mundy”, in place of whatever the Americans had in mind? If so, you wonder what alternative mononymous monikers were considered and rejected. Bono? Miley? Bosco?
O’Dowd clearly understands he is in a bad – a very, very bad – film and so is determined to have as much fun as possible. He dials up the turf-cutter cadences all the way – in contrast to the rest of the cast who, having convinced themselves they’re in Ridley Scott’s Alien, speak as if working through crippling bowel cramps (Alien is quite like The Cloverfield Paradox except that Alien isn’t the worst film ever made).
Helping the actor is the fact that all the interesting stuff in the movie happens to Mundy. The mission’s on-site fixer-upper, he’s the one who figures out how to expel all the oxygen from Cloverfield Station so that ... actually, despite having watched the film twice, I have no idea why they needed to do that.
But, still, bravo to him. And that’s after he’s been eaten by a bulkhead and his arm vanishes into an alternative dimension. When it later reappears O’Dowd gasps the way you or I would were our arm to suddenly saunter down the corridor and wave hello (the arm waves hello).
Space Mundy also gets The Cloverfield Paradox’s best death scene, in which he is eaten alive by an angry fuse box. Science fiction movies are always trying to innovate when it comes to bumping off protagonists. We can agree that having a Co Offaly / Roscommon interstellar handyman devoured by a phantasmagorical wiring cabinet represents a significant step forward for the genre.
O’Dowd is to be credited for portraying the character as an actual Irish person rather than the American idea of an Irish person.
But the presence in a glossy blockbuster of an authentic Irishman is surely also attributable to producer JJ Abrams’ soaraway Hibernophilia (flowing in part from his Irish-American wife, Kate McGrath). As director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it was his idea to have Luke Skywalker skulk on Skellig Michael. And his Bad Robot production company hosts the Oscar Wilde awards, a pre-Academy Awards shindig popular with A-listers, Irish and otherwise.
Abrams is spiritual father of the Cloverfield series – which is to have a fourth instalment, set during the second World War, later in the year. Fans will hope the next movie trumps the disappointing Paradox, currently languishing on Rotten Tomatoes with a 16 per cent approval rating.
That figure represents the esteemed judgment of the international community of film critics. But if you’re Irish you can tack on another 10 per cent – just for the satisfaction of seeing Chris O’Dowd and his enormous tricolour floating out there in space, a one man “Olé, Olé, Olé” chorus broadcast to the universe.
The Cloverfield Paradox is on Netflix now. Chris O’Dowd is in it.