Shadow in the Cloud (2020) Is Action-Horror Best Enjoyed When Not Taken Seriously
Title: Shadow in the Cloud
First Wide Release: December 31, 2020 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Roseanne Liang
Writer: Max Landis, Roseanne Liang
Runtime: 83 Minutes
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Beulah Koale
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
A young, female pilot, Maude Garrett (Chloë Grace Moretz), boards a B-17 bomber with a top-secret package. Met with hostility and sexism from the crew, she is relegated to the Sperry while her package is safeguarded by another crewman. Takeoff is rocky and her flight quarters are less than stellar. What starts off as a minor inconvenience turns to terror when she spots a mysterious figure outside the plane. After a spat with the creature and close contact with enemy planes, the captain reveals that Maude Garrett is not only not commissioned for their flight but that she doesn’t exist. Between Japanese fighters, mischievous creatures, and war intrigue, there’s enough packed in director Rosanne Liang’s action-horror-war hybrid to keep anyone interested.
Shadow in the Cloud mixes unusual elements to create a truly unique and bombastic creature feature.
Hands down, this is easily one of the most memorable films of the year. Not the best executed or the scariest or even the weirdest, but the film that is so different that it is seared into my mind. The first half plays like a radio play, second half is a mishmash of B-monster movie and World War II film. With the first half being confined, most of the tension is translated through the radio. It’s an interesting choice for an action horror movie but it really pays off. Moretz is front and center here and we get some stomach churning views of the descent below and the clouds above.
With its more serious and mysterious approach, the first half is lit appropriately. It’s dark and tense. As we enter into the morning, and into the second act, things get a lot sillier, and the tone just shifts absolutely off the chart. Unless you watch the trailer beforehand, there’s no signal for this. It’s bonkers, especially in the third act, jam-packed with action that overstimulates and dominates the rest of the film. I can’t deny that it is a white-knuckle thrill ride with plenty of great monster scares from beginning to end, just in polar opposite ways.
Shadow in the Cloud is simply an affecting film. The combination of sound and creature design really helps elevate the insanity, pun absolutely intended. The sounds made me nervous the entire time, especially when Maude is in the bottom of the craft. Wind whistling and parts breaking during the flight make for a more claustrophobic watch while you continuously scan the sky looking for a small shape that could terrorize the craft at any moment. And when that shadow does get there, it bares its claws and fangs in a way that will have you shuddering in anticipation for the ugly bat-like creature’s next attack.
Most viewers would agree it is not a film to be taken seriously, given all the moving pieces and opportunities for inaccuracies. Personally, I’m not looking for realism in a World War II set movie that features an electric synth score and gremlin attacks, but that’s just me. Some would say they regularly crossed the line, especially regarding the laws of physics, which I think is a fair point, or the inclusion of Moretz’ character at all, which is not so much a valid point.
Speaking of Moretz, the film lives and dies by Moretz and her character. While Moretz’s character isn’t exceptionally complicated I appreciate that she isn’t one of the three appropriate tropes most men prefer to see her in a movie like this, namely: innocent daughter, dutiful wife, or seductive temptress. Maude makes mistakes, manipulates others, and lies; she also is incredibly clever, quick-thinking, daring, and to top it off, she is an excellent shot. Her character has a mix of good and bad traits, which makes her– human. Her goal is clear and her rationale for taking risks makes sense. I think she is a great character.
Normally, I’m not one to be so bold with claims, but internet incels really went out of their way to trash this movie. It’s easy to see why. The premise is set up for viewers to see a young woman flight officer deal with sexism as she carries out a top-secret mission in the 1940s. To them, it’s the idea that a flight officer couldn’t possibly be a woman, which may or may not have been historically true. I personally don’t care, this is a movie about gremlins, I think we can stretch whatever historical inaccuracies, if any, are included. I think they are more upset about the fact that a woman is in the leading role of the film where she is framed as kicking ass and not waiting around for someone to save her.
While I don’t think Shadow in the Cloud soundly sticks its crash landing, it certainly offers a great helping of balls-to-the-wall entertainment. Moretz shines through exceptional character work and damn fine stunt work – even if most of what her character does is literally impossible – it’s still entertaining to watch, and we have Moretz to thank for that. Anyone that’s a fan of fun B-movies or horror films set in times of war, will love Shadow in the Cloud’s craziness.
Overall Score? 7/10