Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Movie Review: SHADOW IN THE CLOUD (2021)

Written by: Josh "The Merc" Raynor

War is hell. Or at least, that’s what I’ve been told by friends and family who have lived through it. Never knowing if you’ll ever make it home again, and even if you do, the trauma that comes along with it. That is why a good war film can really pack a punch, not just on the action side, but on the emotional side as well. But what happens when you take a story like that and add in a supernatural element? You get an intriguing film like Shadow in the Cloud.

Shadow in the Cloud tells the story of Maude Garrett (Chloe Grace Moretz), a female WWII pilot who is travelling with something Top Secret on a B-17 Flying Fortress when she and the crew encounter something unknown on the plane. However, things aren’t quite as they seem.


Right away, this movie starts off in an unusual way, with an old-style animated scene, reassuring soldiers that “gremlins” are not real, and are just the mind’s way of trying to explain away human error. However, it seems that this PSA doesn’t have all the information, as early on in the film Maude comes face to face with one of these creatures as it tries to sabotage the very plane she’s on.


From the start, you see the misogyny that ran rampant during the 40’s; it’s all on display here. Writer and Director Roseanne Liang doesn’t hold back, which is something I actually really liked about this script, as it didn’t downplay just how bad it was and how accepted it was back then. And it may rub some of my fellow male viewers the wrong way, but that seems more like a reflection of themselves than Liang’s writing.


This is a story that could easily get off-the-wall, batshit crazy, if you let it, and at times it does, but it never (other than one scene which I’ll talk about later) goes so overboard that it takes me out of the film. Even with all the craziness going on, I was locked in almost the entire time, on the edge of my seat during some intense scenes, and I even had a few emotional reactions throughout. It actually gave off a very similar vibe to another horror/war film from 2018 that I really enjoyed, Overlord.


What Liang was able to do with this script, adapting and heavily rewriting a short script from Max Landis, showcases, to me, that she has a lot of talent. I believe this is only her second feature film, and I gotta say, I really want to see what else she can do. And I wouldn’t be upset is she did something in the same vein, though I would also love to see her branch out.


But it’s not just the writing and directing that I enjoyed, as the cinematography and music were both aspects of this film that I specifically commented on to myself while watching. Let’s start with the cinematography, beautifully handled by Kit Fraser. The dark gray and brown tones and erratic camera movements really set up the chaotic feel of WWII combat. And the scenes we got as Maude is picturing in her head what is going on up above her was brilliantly done. And then there’s the music. The score for this film was composed by Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper, who Liang previously worked with on her short film Do No Harm. It was one of the first things that jumped out to me while watching, as it set up the supernatural tone of the film without me even realizing. It’s beautiful at times, haunting at others, full of energy when it needs to be. It was one of my favorite parts of the movie.


I also want to highlight Chloe Grace Moretz, who I think did a very good job here. She played a tough, strong-willed woman, while also being able to showcase her gentler side, which is something we rarely see from female action stars. They tend to be portrayed as stone-cold, ruthless, ass kickers, while almost never showing that other side, which I think we need to see more of in films.


Now there was one specific part that I thought was a little much and sort of took me out, but just for a few moments. There’s a scene where Maude is scaling the underside of the plane mid-air and she seems to do it with ease. I have a hard time believing anyone could actually do what she did, however, it didn’t ruin the movie in anyway for me as we are talking about a story with actual gremlins that mess with planes. So I was able to suspend some disbelief.


Overall, Shadow in the Cloud gave me exactly what I was looking for, and some. It’s a wild ride, and if you’re willing to strap in and take that ride, I think you’ll have a great time, just like I did.


The Merc’s Score:  8/10



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