Even with having gone back to theaters in recent weeks, there is still plenty to check out from home. Stylistically, Shadow in the Cloud is two movies in one with the last 30-minutes consuming everything that worked well in the first two-thirds.
It started off as a self-contained, creature-horror movie (loosely based on the “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” episode of the Twilight Zone) set during WWII, but ended as a completely over-the-top and unbelievable fantasy-action flick. There’s a scene in the trailer where Chloë Grace Moretz falls from the aircraft into the explosion of another aircraft and it propels her right back where she came from…and she’s totally unharmed. Unfortunately, that kinda stuff overpowers everything else.
Director and co-writer Roseanne Liang had a unique vibe going for about an hour. Moretz’s character has a secret mission that persuades a group of airmen to let her on board, so there’s a mystery that gets slowly unraveled. The majority of the first two acts also take place while she is separated from her top-secret package and isolated in one of the plane’s gunner nests. As a result, almost all the dialogue takes place via the intercom system and forces her character and the audience to use their imaginations to visualize what’s going on in the rest of the plane. There are a few moments of cleverly cut-together shots that add some colorful visual elements to the equation but, for the most part, the mystery begins to unravel remotely as Moretz is trapped and helpless to do anything about it.
That was when the movie was at its best because it simplified the storytelling and put the narrative in the hands of its lead actor. It felt very much like a stage performance and reminded me of “Locke” to some extent. Moretz sells it best while leading the dance emotionally. Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper’s original music helps a lot with scene-setting early on. Even if it’s more at home with a neon-drenched 80s-era horror flick, that’s what makes it awesome.
The movie takes a hard 180-degree turn at that point, selling out a carefully crafted narrative of tension and suspense for an action blockbuster assault that left any shred of believability falling back to Earth.
Liang did some things that worked really well, but the final act of the movie ends up leaving a much larger impression and ultimately drags the whole thing down with it.
Recommendation: The strongest elements of the storytelling are creative and worth checking out and it’s only an hour and 23-minutes.