Shadow in the Cloud
Starring: Chloe Grace Moretz, Taylor John Smith
Directed by: Roseanne Liang
This is what the world of cinema has come down to: long conversations with lots of CGI. Shadow in the Cloud by Roseanne Liang doesn’t quite know what to do with itself. Is it a war movie? Is it a movie that celebrates feminism? Is it a sci-fi thriller? Maybe all or some to all. The film mostly centers around Chloe Grace Moretz’s Maude Garrett character and while she does an excellent job at what is almost a one-woman show, it’s still a chore to make it through the entire movie, which is saying something since it’s only 83 minutes.
Amid World War II, Pilot Officer Maude Garrett (Moretz) is given a mission to transport a secret package across the Pacific Ocean. Her crewmates aboard the B-17 bomber that she’s been assigned to are weary of her presence and dismiss her as an incapable female; especially after she claims to see a weird creature on the side of their plane. Stowed away in one of the gun turrets, she endures endless taunts from those on the plane until Japanese fighter planes swoop in. Garrett now needs to fight off the jeers of her peers, the enemy ships, and the weird gremlin that seems interested in both tearing apart the plane piece by piece and her secret package of which she is extremely protective.
The movie sells itself as a war movie with a sci-fi twist but it’s really a statement on misogyny and how triumphant feminism can be. The problem is that it brushes up against the line of ridiculous satire and makes the premise feel stupid. A clever film with a strong female lead overcoming intelligent creeps is compelling. This movie is about how one woman outmatches a bunch of single-minded fools and fighting a weird gremlin at the same time. The script serves as an oversimplification of how women were treated back then and how inferior men were given more dignity and respect. It felt mindless and I wish there would have been more insightful and cerebral than slapstick-like (although without it being comedic) men are dumb and cowardly compared to the women are smart and heroic. It’s too simple a premise and a story like this deserved better. Don’t get me wrong: the clear message that a women can be the smartest and strongest person in a room (or plane) dominated by men should be championed and we need more movies and media where women are given prominent roles and strong stories. However, despite the intention being well-meaning, the farcical nature of the bumbling fools that Garrett has to deal with is low-hanging fruit.
This movie is essentially a one-person show and Moretz does a great job carrying the acting load. The rest of the crew are fine, but because they’re mostly written to be caricatures, they feel more like they’re doing their best to fill the typecasting that was established for each character. Nobody stands out; even Walter Quaid (Smith) who is shows any compassion to Garrett (for reasons that will become obvious later in the film), feels kind of there just to provide more depth to Garrett’s character. This is a Chloe Grace Moretz movie (which is not a terrible thing) and everyone else are pawns moving around the board.
Much of the movie has Garrett having conversations over the radio with other people on the plane while locked up in one of the plane’s gun turrets. While spending nearly a quarter of the film with Garrett in near isolation brings home the idea of her loneliness in a man’s world, it makes the pacing of the movie crawl. Thankfully, this movie is not even 90 minutes and if the movie had gone longer than two hours, these solo scenes would have been too much.
Additionally, the special effects in the movie do more harm than good. Poor CGI can look more fake than impressive, and this film takes unimpressive action to a whole new level. The action scenes look like they were developed for video games made in the 2000s. The entire movie (except for the last ten minutes) feels like it was shot in an airplane in the back of some warehouse with a bunch of green screen decoration. Everything not in the airplane (the gremlin, the aeronautical dogfights, etc.) feels like animations without the escape of potentially thinking that this could be real. Had this movie been shot forty years earlier without any greenscreen technology, it would have looked way better. Instead, the film looks like a colourless mess until the final act.
Shadow in the Cloud is a bad movie that isn’t memorable at all. It’s so forgettable that I kept having to remind myself of the title while writing this review. Roseanne Liang was able to cobble together enough material to make a presentable movie; just not a good one. It’s boring, predictable, and sluggish. You’ve wasted enough time on this film just by reading this review.