Shadow In The Cloud is one of those films where you can tell there was a bit of split work on the film. Sometimes that means the film is disjointed. In other cases, like Rogue One, it isn’t a huge issue. This time around, we’ll get the controversy out of the way right away. Screenwriter Max Landis was dismissed from the film due to sexual harassment, and other abuse allegations. Luckily for everyone, director Roseanne Liang stepped in to finish and fix up the script for shooting. Landis was also removed as a producer on the film. We don’t condone any of his behavior at all.
Getting that out of the way, the film itself is wonderfully directed and acted. Chloe Grace Moretz is the real star of the show here as Pilot Maude Garrett, and her talents shine through. After starting off her career with Kick-Ass and Let Me In, she continues that horror/action track with Shadow In The Cloud. As the only female on a B-17 bomber flight, she faces the maximum amount of sexism, derogatory comments, and opposition at every move from her male crewmembers. We’re given a look at just what it would have been like for a solitary woman on this all-male flight.
The rest of the cast is pretty standard fare with your crew rounding out with: Taylor John Smith as Quaid, Nick Robinson as Beckell, Beulah Koale as Anton Williams, Callan Mulvey as Captain John Reeves, Benedict Wall as Dorn, and Byron Coll as the Scotsman Taggart. The cast works well together and you can tell the comradery between the male cast members. It helps build the tension between the two. Now that doesn’t mean that the crew are the antagonists here.
Shadow In The Cloud Builds Intrigue In The First Half
In between Garrett getting shoved into the bottom turret of the bomber, you get the full breadth of horror and action. The first half of the film is really like a radio play except you see Garrett the entire time. The male crew members are voiceovers the entire time. In between their horrid comments to her, we’re given looks at enemy planes, mechanical problems, and a “gremlin”. Yes, that’s a gremlin. Like The Twilight Zone‘s “Nightmare At 20,000 Feet”, we get the horror aspect of the film with the monster on the outside of the plane.
The intrigue of the package and everything about it is given away around the end of the first half. I won’t give it away, but it’s a pretty hard hitting reveal that makes the first half understandable. Garrett’s motivation behind the package and her mission is incredibly clear after it. All of her actions culminate in a scene that’s emotionally deep and will shake you to the core. It’s not your standard action/horror affair for acting.
After a pretty heart-wrenching scene at the halfway point, the film kicks the radio drama to the curb. It goes full bore into action set pieces that are a bit hard to believe, but then again, you’re watching a film about a Gremlin on a WWII plane in the middle of New Zealand airspace.
All Out Action From Here On Out, With A Little Bit Of Heart
The most dangerous enemy in the film isn’t actually the Gremlin though. In the midst of dealing with that, the most damage is done by the enemy Japanese planes in the film. One by one, the crew is systematically picked off by these planes that seem like Jason Voorhees in their execution. The last act is just all out action. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It just doesn’t really give you time to breath after such an emotional weight is dropped on you with the revelation in the halfway point. That might be to the film’s benefit though, as the action scenes are bolstered and the stakes are much higher because of it.
As for the final third of the film, Grace Moretz takes on even more of a load in the film. After the majority of the crew is taken down by either the Gremlin or the enemy fighter pilots, we have a skeleton crew trying to fly the bomber. So, naturally we end up with a fantastic action sequence that finishes off the film. We’re not given any sort of denouement here. Grace Moretz goes toe to toe with the Gremlin on a beach, and that’s the end.
Highlights And Lowlights Of Shadow In The Cloud
Chloe Grace Moretz takes her place as one of the Queens of Action here. Or at least she should. Her performance drives the entire film and without her, this would be a piss-poor film. She’s worth the price of admission all on her own. How she handles the sexist comments and quips from the male crewmembers is great. She’s incredibly believable in the role and even through some of the more action heavy scenes, she holds more than her own.
Roseanne Liang’s direction is pretty damn good here as well. With the “radio play” first-half being so different than the second half, it’s like she had to direct two different films. For even the best of directors, handling this complete tonal shift would make some of them bend and break under the weight. Liang handles it with great direction and work.
Finally, I want to talk about the score. It seems like with the advent of SynthWave music, there are a lot more movie scores taking advantage of the genre. This film, despite being a WWII based film, uses a SynthWave score from Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper. You would think this could be incredibly distracting. It’s not. It actively adds to the suspense, action, and intrigue of the film. Films like Cold In July and others have used similar scores to great effect. Shadow In The Cloud is similar in this vein.
The Rest Of The Cast Isn’t Given A Lot Of Time To Shine
The film is just under 90 minutes long, so there’s not a lot of room for others to get their shine. The only of the crewmembers that isn’t lost in the shuffle are the two that survive the whole ordeal. Go figure. Beulah Koale and Nick Robinson are given more time than the others though. With Koale getting to do a lot of heavy lifting as the sole pilot left to land the plane in our third act. He has a small part, but he should be getting more work based on this.
You could argue that the tonal shift between the two halves of the film is a turn-off, but that really depends on what you’re looking for in this film. If you were looking for a horror/action hybrid, you might be pleasantly surprised. The film was marketed as that and the first half doesn’t really reflect that marketing. While the second half, is exactly what the film is shown as in trailers. So it all really depends on what you’re looking for.
At The End, It’s A Recommendation Based On Moretz’s Performance
The film is fun. It’s not a groundbreaking piece of genre film, but it does what it’s set out to do. It makes Chloe Grace-Moretz into even more of a badass heroine than before. Roseanne Liang is a capable action director that helps blend and keep the two halves of this story from falling apart. Shadow In The Cloud is a fine action film that could have been much worse. Due to a great performance by Moretz and capable performances by the rest of it’s small cast, the film comes as a recommendation from me. Go watch it and find out for yourself.
Shadow In The Cloud releases in theaters, digital, and VOD on January 1st, 2021.
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