Shadow in the Cloud (2021)
Directed by: Roseanne Liang
Premise: Set during World War II, a female flight officer (Chloë Grace Moretz) transports a confidential package on a flight with an all-male crew. During the ride she puts up with sexist remarks while mysterious phenomena occur around the plane.
What Works: World War II is one of the most familiar subjects in American cinema and since the release of Saving Private Ryan in 1998 movies about the war have generally adhered to a gritty style with a washed out color pallet. Filmmaker Roseanne Liang brings a completely different approach to Shadow in the Cloud and the style of the film is its greatest asset. Shadow in the Cloud has a slick and polished look but not in a way that betrays the time period. The score uses a synth sound that is unique among World War II films and the music suits the Twilight Zone-like twists that come later in the picture. The film also benefits from the casting of Chloë Grace Moretz. She’s in virtually every scene and Moretz is isolated for a significant portion of the picture as her character is locked inside of a ball turret underneath the plane. Moretz carries the movie and does a lot to make the twists and turns credible.
What Doesn’t: Shadow in the Cloud begins very well. Chloë Grace Moretz’s character has a package, she’s isolated in the turret, and tensions rise between her and the rest of the crew. But halfway through the movie, Shadow in the Cloud introduces several twists and reveals, including fantastical elements. These choices derail the movie. Stories are generally about characters with goals and it takes time and effort to invest the audience in the protagonist’s desire. Shadow in the Cloud does that at first but then dumps the established goal and reframes what the movie is about in a way that makes everything less compelling. The constant changing of the film’s focus is frustrating. Shadow in the Cloud suffers from too much plot getting in the way of the story. The movie has so much going on that it never does any subplot justice. What’s so strange about Shadow in the Cloud is that it is simultaneously sparse and padded. None of the story threads are carried through to a meaningful conclusion and none of the characters learn or grow. But Shadow in the Cloud is also filled with set pieces and conversations that are protracted or feel tagged on. That’s especially true in the ending which drags out the resolution. The padding of the movie is especially beguiling given that the picture runs less than ninety minutes.
DVD extras: None.
Bottom Line: Shadow in the Cloud exemplifies the truism that a good movie cannot be made from a bad script. In spite of the film’s narrative problems, Chloë Grace Moretz is quite good and the craftsmanship reveals Roseanne Liang as a filmmaker to watch.
Episode: #853 (May 30, 2021)