REVIEW: Shadow in the Cloud

For a year that was itself pretty out-here, 2020 was strangely devoid of cinematic oddities.1

As such, I was forced to award my “Mad As Arseholes” award to a film that wasn’t technically released till New Year’s Day.

Shadow in the Cloud is a glossy, unabashed genre mashup, which repositions that old Twilight Zone standard “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” as WW2 aviation thriller, creature feature, and feminist parable.

When Flight Officer Maude Garrett (Chloe Grace Moretz) hitches a lift from a rain-slicked airfield in Auckland circa 1943, she’s in for a rough ride. The crew of B-17 Flying Fortress “The Fool’s Errand” aren’t partial to having a dame onboard; let alone one with last-minute orders from a hard-ass superior and a mysterious carry case she won’t let them open under pain of court martial.

They stick her in the ball turret beneath the craft; still subjected (via radio) to the self-satisfied sausage fest going on above but unable to intervene. Everything she says in response is ridiculed and dismissed. And that’s before Maude becomes the only witness to both a Japanese fighter plane in the clouds below and a winged gremlin tearing chunks off the fuselage.2

It’s not until some way into Shadow in the Cloud‘s lean 83-minute runtime that a revelation shifts Maude into proper sci-fi heroine territory3 and the film into a full-blown gonzo actioner.

Kit Fraser’s neon-drenched cinematography and Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper’s pounding synth score4 layer on the mood, and, whether its simultaneously evoking claustrophobia and vertigo, as in the turret scenes, or gravity-defying action – one impressive sequence literally flips the film on its head – Roseanne Liang’s versatile direction is a masterclass in building and exploding tension.

Combined with a committed, no-frills performance from Moretz, and a couple of truly outrageous jump scares5, you have a recipe for a classic midnight movie.

Shadow in the Cloud is the type of film that demands to be seen at your local fleapit cinema, the grimier the better, but, given the state of the world, you can find it on Video on Demand, too.

  1. Anything straight-to-VOD and starring Nicolas Cage doesn’t count.
  2. There’s a definite irony that a movie about the importance of believing women should be written by Max Landis. Shadow in the Cloud is the first screenplay of his to be produced since allegations surfaced about Landis being abusive in his relationships.
  3. *Definite* Ripley vibes.
  4. Reminiscent of both Vangelis’ work on Blade Runner and Cliff Martinez’s on Drive.
  5. Avoid watching the trailer if you want to avoid spoiling one of them.

Author: robertmwallis

Graduate of Royal Holloway and the London Film School. Founder of Of All The Film Sites; formerly Of All The Film Blogs. Formerly Film & TV Editor of The Metropolist and Official Sidekick at A Place to Hang Your Cape. Co-host of The Movie RobCast podcast (formerly Electric Shadows) and member of the Online Film Critics Society.

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