- Directed by Roseanne Liang
- September 12, 2020 (TIFF) / January 1, 2021 (United States)
During World War II a mysterious woman boards a plane that is on a supply mission just before takeoff. When mysterious circumstances begin to happen, questions about her story create tension as strange events begin to affect the plane.
I have a soft spot for movies set during World War II, so I decided to check this one out. I feel it has more in common with the mid80s Amazing Stories television series or an odd episode of the original The Twilight Zone than it does with a war film or even a horror film. It is a combination of two different plots to make one unusual story.
It is clear from the get-go that Flying Officer Maude Garrett (Chloë Grace Moretz) is not who she says she is and not doing what she claims to be doing. In fact we see someone which we can presume to be her forge the documents which convince the crew to take off with her on board in the opening moments of the film. The initial thrust of the story then becomes “Why?” What exactly is she up to?
Garrett carries with her something in a radio bag but what it could be is not revealed since she claims it is a classified item and her paperwork supports that. The crew’s general mistrust of her eventually gets her confined to a gun turret where she spends the bulk of the film. Interestingly a good chunk of the film is mostly just the camera on her character while she sits in the turret. The story takes place much like a radio play with her interacting with the crew over the plane’s internal communications.
As the film goes on mysterious things being to happen and the crew, who were expecting to be simply hauling radio parts, is forced into combat. They encounter Japanese scout planes and fighter craft. Despite proving herself in battle during an attack, her secretive nature and questions about what she is doing create tension and paranoia among the crew.
As the movie goes along it is revealed that Garrett is actually a nurse who is running away from her abusive husband who tracked her to her assignment. In the radio bag? An extramarital child conceived with a member of the bomber’s crew-top turret gunner Staff Sergeant Walter Quaid (Taylor John Smith). The child had been sedated with the hope of making it to their destination without discovery where Garrett would begin anew.
But that is not the only thing going on in the film. As I said before there are mysterious breakdowns and an animated short at the beginning of the film meant to look like a 40s cartoon that tells you what it is. They even stylized the creature similar to how it is rendered when in live action. A gremlin has sneaked onboard and is doing what gremlins do. This is not the cute Joe Dante Gizmo variety but rather a bat faced thing that is a predatory animal. The movie quickly becomes this weird conglomeration of elements involving a love child, a monster, and a World War II action film. And it works. It is two, maybe three, distinctly different types of stories merged into one movie and while I enjoyed it, it is most definitely not for everyone.
Other than the sexism of the crew there are no deep themes in this film or political messages. The sexism is a bit ham fisted in how it is portrayed. I am not saying there was not sexism or that men did not or have not talked like this. It just came of as what someone thought it would be like and not authentic. It did not flow naturally.
The action is not strong but it does have its moments. There are dogfights (not sure if flying fortresses can get in those technically) but a particular highlight does not involve any plane battles. It occurs when Garrett is stuck in the turret and escapes and climbs along the belly of the plane to rescue her baby from the gremlin.
Why this gremlin has a fixation on her child is not really explained as it carries through to the finale of the film. It is just a really cool scene here. And it ends on something that while just as improbable as what just occurred previously but is still cool. The plane is under attack by a Japanese fighter and Garrett, after saving the baby and getting it back inside the plane, is knocked out and falling to her apparent death. As a doomed Japanese playing moves underneath of her it explodes and the force of the explosion shoots her back up into the plane to safety. Improbable? Yes. Cool? Definitely.
The film is directed by Roseanne Liang from a screenplay by her and Max Landis though it was reportedly heavily rewritten once Landis was removed due to accusations of abuse and sexual misconduct by several women and assorted industry figures. This is a fun story that you can just sit back and enjoy. It asks little of the viewer other than to have a good time. You will not be hit with a message or lectured to about any particular topic. I miss movies like that. Sometimes it is good to just watch and enjoy.
Shadow in the Cloud is a cool movie, but it is not the type of movie for everybody. It is really a few stories merged into one. The acting is not bad and visually it looks great. The issue with most audiences would be the mash up. Because of that I will give this an if you want but it is an if you want that I encourage.