Monday, March 4, 2024

Movie Review: ‘Shadow in the Cloud’ Overcomes a Problematic Script Thanks To A Soaring Lead Performance

Director: Roseanne Liang
Writers: Max Landis, Roseanne Liang
Stars: Chloë Grace Moretz, Taylor John Smith, Beulah Koale

Synopsis: A female WWII pilot traveling with top secret documents on a B-17 Flying Fortress encounters an evil presence on board the flight.


I love WWII planes, and the B-17 Flying Fortress is my favorite plane of all time. So when I heard there was a female directed movie, with a female protagonist, that takes place on a B-17, I had to see it. Shadow in the Cloud tells the story of Maude Garrett (Chloë Grace Moretz), a pilot who is charged with protecting a highly classified package on a flight where the all male crew doesn’t trust her or want her there. Soon after the plane takes off, mysterious things start to happen and the tension between the crew grows.

This film is a hodgepodge of many types of films, including a WWII action movie, sci-fi thriller, and drama. The plot is a little bizarre and unexpected based on the synopsis, but I enjoyed it. Chloë Grace Moretz shines as a strong lead and this film makes me excited to see her in more action roles. Unfortunately, the rest of the crew are mostly white males that are hard to distinguish one from the other. The exception is New Zealander Beulah Koale, who portrays the co-pilot. I loved that we got to see the inner workings of the B-17, especially the notorious ball turret. This is a spherical attachment to the bottom of the plane which allows the gunner stationed high visibility and movement to locate and shoot down enemy aircraft. It’s known for being claustrophobic and even occasionally falling off the airplane. This is where Maude spends a good chunk of the film and first discovers the dangers facing the crew. Viewers can almost feel her frustration, helplessness, and claustrophobic panic as she tries to warn the crew of danger. The crew writes off her warnings as “female hysterics”, locks her in, and disconnects her radio. From here, the tone of the film changes from a typical war movie to a sci-fi thriller. It is an awkward transition, but I appreciate that well-known pilot superstitions- such as back luck having a woman on board, and blaming “gremlins” for any unexpected mechanical problems-  were included in the plot. The action sequences were another highlight of the film. These included moments like Maude climbing all over the plane in flight, equipment catching on fire, and tension-filled fights. Despite how unrealistic some of these scenes were, it was captivating and thrilling to watch.

The film is in no way historically accurate, but given the many genres covered, I can mostly let that slide. Shadow in the Cloud has a jumbled idea of a woman’s role in the military during WWII and what they would be taught and allowed to do. There is very little character development, most of the crew are misogynistic, stereotypical flyboys who are only present to have an accurate number of men to staff the plane. The plot is kind of all over the place and confusing at times, but attempts to resolve itself in the end.

A potential deterrent for watching this film is its problematic (at best) writer Max Landis. Due to the allegations made against him, director Roseanne Liang rewrote a majority of the script to limit Landis’ contribution to the film. Liang’s script may not be award-worthy, but it’s entertaining and viewers should give it a shot. Shadow in the Cloud may not be for everyone, but I enjoyed it. The film has its issues with historical inaccuracy, a problematic writer, and a convoluted plot, but Chloë Grace Moretz makes it worth watching (especially if you like WWII plane movies). 

Grade: C+


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