Shadow in the Cloud

In August of 1943, Flight Officer Maude Garrett (Chloë Grace Moretz) boards a B17 ready for takeoff at the Aukland Allied Air Base flourishing orders about the classified package she has been commissioned to transport.  The all male crew is less than welcoming, relegating her to the ball turret while Walter Quaid (Taylor John Smith, "The Outpost"), the only crew member to exhibit respect, offers to guard her ‘extremely fragile’ package.  After listening to a barrage of sexual harassment, Maude spies something outside and reports it, drawing further abuse from the men who have yet to see a “Shadow in the Cloud.”

Laura's Review: B+

Cowriter (with “Bright’s” Max Landis)/director Roseanne Liang gives us a clue what to expect with her faux retro opening cartoon, a bit of WWII propaganda debunking ‘gremlins,’ those evil, folkloric mischief makers who like to mess with airplanes.  But Liang isn’t content with one wild scenario, presenting Maude with obstacles on all fronts, and just when you think the filmmaker’s gone too far (as I did with that package reveal), she manages to make it work.  Prepare yourself for batshit crazy and “Shadow in the Cloud” is entertaining as hell.

Chloë Grace Moretz deserves a large part of the credit, the young actress on screen throughout, often by herself in an enclosed space or performing physically demanding stunts on the exterior of the airplane.  After enduring most of the crew’s derision over her comm. headset, Maude fights back in various ways, but when things get exceedingly insane, she goes it alone, at least until her observations are backed by another crewman, or, in the case of attacking Japanese fighter planes, by all.  Moretz convinces of both physical and mental toughness and emotional vulnerability.

Liang handles a heavy dose of effects, not just with her rotating, disintegrating bomber, but with a very convincing gremlin (it looks like a demonic bat monkey), while also giving the illusion of her WWII period within the effects themselves, smoke and clouds obscuring outer plane action, the gremlin almost-but-not-quite reminiscent of stop motion.  Her third act surprise also gets this treatment, cinematographer Kit Fraser (“Under the Shadow”) featuring it in old timey close-ups that don’t quite match with the action.

The male crew is heard far more than seen, at least until the film’s final moments, with Byron Coll portraying the worst of them, “Love, Simon’s” Nick Robinson having a feminist epiphany and “Thank You for Your Service’s” Beulah Koale the Maori copilot relieved of racist abuse by Maude’s more upsetting presence.  And Liang keeps delivering until the very end, her bomber’s sexist nose art engulfed in flames, Kate Bush’s ‘Hounds of Love’ playing over closing credits.  2021’s first film is a winner.

Robin's Review: B

Flight Officer Maude Garret (Chloe Grace Moretz) boards an American B-17 bomber on a top secret mission and carrying a special cargo. She meets with a derisive attitude from the crew but something else, something evil, is also on board in “Shadow in the Cloud.”

As I watched this war movie, horror/monster flick, story of femme-empowerment and dark comedy start to unfold, and being a WWII buff, I had misgivings about the details which rang silly to me. Then, director and co-writer Roseanne Liang (with co-scribe Max Landis credited) makes it know what her intent is to be. And what that “intent is to be” is a rollicking roller coaster ride of sweaty palm action that may not make much sense to a logical mind. But, hey, this is a movie, and a horror movie to boot and Liang takes no prisoners in the effort to entertain us.

This is a case where knowledge of history, WWII bombers and secret missions count for naught. Any of the details that bothered me – only at first – were dispelled when the monster yarn kicked in. If you are old enough to remember the original “Twilight Zone,” you may recall a fun episode called “Nightmare at 20000 Feet” starring a young William Shatner. The makers of “Shadow in the Cloud” pay homage to that classic.

But there is more to this than just a monster movie or rehash of an old TV show. There is also sweaty-palm action that puts our heroine (a real trooper with Chloe Grace Moritz) into the most unbelievable harrowing action sequences – like Garret hanging from a bomber flying 200 miles an hour and under attack by three Japanese Zeroes.

My advice for movie viewers who want to have a lot of fun, take your brain out, put it in a safe place and prepare to suspend disbelief, kind of like how I felt watching Sylvester Stallone’s “Cliffhanger (1993)” – with sweaty palms. As I settled in to watch “Shadow in the Cloud,” I realized that I was having a heck of a lot more fun than I could have expected.

"Shadow in the Cloud" is in select theaters and on VOD and digital on January 1, 2021.  It is also available at the Coolidge Corner Theater's virtual screening room - click here.