“Shadow in the Cloud” stars Chloë Grace Moretz, Taylor John Smith, Beulah Koale, Nick Robinson, and Callan Mulvey. Released on January 1, 2021, the film is about an air force service woman who battles a gremlin on a bomber.
The film is directed by Roseanne Liang, who also directed “My Wedding and Other Secrets”. The new year is once again upon us, which means more new movies for me to review. Although this year tends to be a little bit different due to us still sitting around at our homes waiting for things to get back to normal, myself included. Right now, I couldn’t find the right time for me to go back to the cinema to see a few films that I miss, so how about I take a look at something that’s available to watch on demand instead? I usually start off the new year by reviewing a horror film, which happens to be a pretty bizarre tradition since 2016. Fortunately for us, this year will be different. I decided to break this cycle by reviewing an action film that was just released last weekend. That’s right, no more of me suffering through a bad horror film this month. Well, at least until next January. The film I’ll be looking at today made its first appearance at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival back in September, where it earned the People’s Choice Award for Midnight Madness and some pretty decent reviews. I discovered this film was coming out thanks to the trailer I watched a couple of months ago, and when I found out that it is available to watch on demand and has a $20 rental price tag on the side, I figured that I would give this one a shot. I mean, what else am I supposed to do while I’m waiting to see the rest of the award-worthy films? Watch Youtube videos all day? Anyway, let’s see if this film is worth paying the rental price for.
Set during World War II in the 1940s, the story follows Maude Garrett (Moretz), a female Flight Officer who is tasked to deliver top secret documents to Samoa. What are the documents about? No one knows, because they’re top secret. The only way to get there is to travel in the air by riding the B-17 bomber. Unfortunately, the bomber’s crew didn’t give her the proper welcome she deserved, except Walter Quaid (Smith), the Staff Sergeant who befriends her. During the trip, Maude discovers that a mysterious creature has hitched a ride as well and has a thirst for blood. Not only that, but the Japanese fighters are also on the bomber’s tail. Trapped in the turret with no way out, she will have to use her wits to outsmart the beast, evade the enemy planes, and get to her destination in one piece. The story is pretty much a combination of a war thriller and a creature-involved B-movie that somehow took inspiration from the famous “Twilight Zone” episode, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”. Not only that, but it also offered some small bits of social commentary that involve the treatment of women during the World War era, especially those who serve in the air force, as well as the fact that air force members use gremlins as an excuse for their mistakes and their psychological behavior. While I will give it credit for showcasing the fact that women can get their hands dirty as well, the screenplay by Max Landis and Roseanne Liang seemed to focus more on delivering a thrilling and nonsensical experience for those who are in need of some pure escapism. Even though it would be nice for it to expand a bit more on its commentary, I was able to find some amusement in “Shadow in the Cloud”. The film is told from the perspective of Moretz’s character with the main locations being the bomber itself and the turret. It gave viewers an opportunity to experience certain things the same way she’s experiencing, whether it’s dialogue from the supporting characters or seeing a huge furry creature demolishing the plane. This type of storytelling has been done several times before, but it’s done in a way that’s not only engaging, but also enticing and a little bit claustrophobic. As a director and a co-writer, Roseanne Liang was given the task to make sure the main character is just as important as the thrills, and for the most part, she managed to accomplish that mission, especially during the first and second acts of the film. Those scenes alone were nicely-directed, investing, and pretty intense, especially when all of the aerial dogfights are shown from the inside of the plane. It just goes to show that you can have an intense action film without wasting money on a couple of big CGI sequences. Chloë Grace Moretz also played a big part on how properly executed the first two acts were. She’s starting off the new year right by providing some respectable depth to the character of Maude. Moretz is no stranger to starring in action films as she had already appeared in the “Kick-Ass” films and “The 5th Wave”, and this film is no different. Her solid performance as Maude shows that she can handle this type of genre as effectively as she does with comedy and drama. It would be interesting to see if she can go for two for two with the upcoming “Tom & Jerry” film. Taylor John Smith also did pretty well with his performance as Walter Quaid. As for the other characters, all I can say is that the supporting cast did fine in their roles, even though I didn’t really care that much about their characters. They were there to be big jerks towards Maude and that’s about it. Despite the film being a fun and silly ride for me, I felt that it relied a little bit too much on the latter during the third act, which can hurt the film for those who are expecting it to be like the first two acts: a realistic and claustrophobic war thriller that happens to feature a gremlin. The third act kind of flipped itself over by making up some of its own rules. There were definitely a couple of moments that require viewers to suspend their disbelief, which makes sense since it does resemble a B-movie. While those moments were both entertaining and completely bonkers from my personal perspective, the final act in general was a bit of a step down from the first two acts in terms of its tone and storytelling. Even the people who want logic in their films may not be impressed with how silly these moments can be.
Overall, “Shadow in the Cloud” is a pretty effective action film that’s as thrilling, crazy, and fun as one might expect based on its concept. The beginning and middle parts of the film were suitably riveting thanks to Liang’s direction and Moretz’s performance, while the final act is a flawed and idiotic experience that can be enjoyable with the right mindset. Personally, I thought it was decent enough to please my desire for something that’s action-packed and a little bit silly. If your desire is similar to mine, then feel free to check this one out.