shadow in the cloud
director: Roseanne Liang (my wedding and other secrets)
starring: chloe grace moretz, nick robinson, taylor john smith and bryan coll
REVIEWER: lyall carter
While travelling with top-secret documents on a B-17 Flying Fortress, a female WWII pilot encounters an evil presence on board.
In my couple of years reviewing films I’ve seen some straight out bonkers stuff. But nothing will prepare you for the strange yet alluring Shadow in the Cloud. With guns blaring and a dash of the Twilight Zone, Shadow in the Cloud is the feminist gut punch of an action flick that the world’s been waiting for.
In the throes of World War II, on a rainy morning in Auckland, New Zealand, a group of Allied soldiers prepare to take to the air in a B-17 Flying Fortress dubbed Fool’s Errand.
The all-male crew is caught off guard by Flight Officer Maude Garrett boarding their plane carrying a top-secret package. The presence of a woman on a military flight is unusual enough to arouse their suspicion.
Just as Maude’s quick wit and military knowledge is winning over the leery crew, strange happenings and holes in her backstory lead to paranoia surrounding her true mission. But this crew isn’t alone in the sky; lurking in the shadows, something with a taste for chaos is tearing at the heart of the vessel. Crushed between an oncoming Japanese ambush and an evil lurking within, Maude must push her limits to save the hapless crew and to protect her mysterious cargo.
Shadow in the Cloud is a swift yet strange punch to the throat. At 83 minutes it is, by modern action flick standards, quite a short film. But within the small runtime Kiwi director Roseanne Liang packs stack loads into her film from kick ass action to a CGI gremlin all while giving us one of the best female action characters ever committed to celluloid.
The only struggle that I had narratively was the gremlin creatures. Even after the brilliant Air Force Public Service Announcement cartoon on safety which briefly introduces the mythos of the gremlin, its place in the film doesn’t feel particularly earned or developed.
Take The Shape of Water for example. The Amphibian Man’s presence in the story feels earned and as a character is beautifully developed with a history, depth and clarity to who he is. Apart from the safety cartoon we don’t know anything about the gremlins - why are they up in the clouds? Where have they come from? What are their motivations? Without having this character development the leap of belief we have to take unfortunately is a little too far and just didn’t work for me.
That being said the development of Maude and the themes that Shadow in the Cloud tackle are world class. Maude faces sexist and misogynistic remarks and attitudes throughout the film and doesn’t lecture the characters and audience that she can do all things, but instead puts on a display of ass kickery that is utterly brilliant. She fixes the mechanical issues with her gun turret, she clambers upside down across the belly of the plane, helps fly the plane in nosedive all while fighting off gremlins. Now I won’t spoil the end scene for you but it’s outstandingly brilliant. It’s one of the best displays of the power, strength and the wonder that are women. It’s an earth shatteringly powerful yet beautiful moment and one of the best I’ve ever seen on the silver screen.
Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper’s 80’s like soundtrack massively impacts the atmosphere and enables the tension to be fully ratched up. The costume and production design is slick and filled with exquisite detailing.
At our screening director Roseanne Liang said that Chloë Grace Moretz carries the film and she really does despite a stellar supporting cast. Through an inventive use of radio transmission, Moretz is on screen by herself for the vast majority of the film. Her presence and command of the screen is a reminder of her breakout performance in Kick Ass and a very good sign that she has a very promising and varied career on the silver screen ahead.
With guns blaring and a dash of the Twilight Zone, Shadow in the Cloud is the feminist gut punch of an action flick that the world’s been waiting for.