Some films have to be seen to be believed, and Shadow in the Cloud is one of those films. The premise is insane, one that makes sense only if you don’t inspect it too closely. Directed by Roseanne Liang, the film stars Chloë Grace Moretz as a WWII pilot on a rampage against gender roles, Japanese fighter planes and a few nasty gremlin.
Much to the misogynistic dismay of her all-male comrades, Maude Garrett (Moretz) boards an allied plane leaving from New Zealand. From this moment forward, Maude repeatedly reminds us that she must protect her package, the contents of which are unknown to the audience and the crew. With an extremely questionable English accent, she informs her comrades that she is present on top secret orders. This, naturally, means nothing to her fellow soldiers, who laugh as they banish her to the bomber’s ball turret at the bottom of the plane.
Once occupying the turret, the film refuses to stray from Maude’s perspective as she is subject to extremely derogatory verbal abuse from the crew. Things start to get even worse for Maude as she catches sight of a gruesome gremlin – with knives for hands, seriously. What unfolds throughout is nothing short of artistic anarchy, with many moments crafting a cloudy neon atmosphere, reminiscent of metallic war-torn Overlord (2018) and Jonathan Glazer’s spectacular sci-fi thriller Under the Skin (2013).
Originally written by Max Landis, this feminist tale of WWII genre bending horror has gone through a number of rewrites and reworks (with Liang taking over the script as Landis was removed from the production), which are ultimately visible, as much of the dialogue is questionable and lacks any real emotional weight. Although, the punches pulled by Liang certainly reclaim this production as a major F.U to toxic masculinity as each of Maude’s comrades meet their demise, chucked off screen in and not given a second thought.
Shadow in the Cloud is a spectacle of shocking silliness that unfortunately suffers from clunky writing and re-works. This results in failure to achieve the atmosphere and emotional pulls the narrative attempts to possess. However, rooting for Maude is easy as she is instantly likeable and undeservingly othered. Punished relentlessly for her gender by her crew mates as the flight commences, the film swiftly moves into feminist resistance as Maude unleashes female fury on anything that stands in her way. Expect violence and a sprinkle of gore as Shadow in the Cloud relishes in its unpredictable action.
This chaotic B-Movie doesn’t overstay its welcome or demand too much of its audience. The only real question it wants the audience to ask is ‘what’s in the package?’ Once this is (badly) fulfilled, Liang unleashes hell on screen as Moretz punches and pounds her way through every obstacle she encounters. Shadow in the Cloud punishes the patriarchy every chance it gets and does so in such swift style. It becomes what the action genre is all about – satisfaction. There’s nothing more satisfying than watching Moretz beat the shit out of a gremlin, regardless of plot holes and forced heterosexual romances.
Shadow in the Cloud refuses to take itself seriously. The film is flawed, but it’s hard to ignore its undeniable character. Rather than relish in the realities of war, Liang’s genre switching produces a narrative that slowly builds to a brutal and messy attack on the patriarchy. This tale of gritty girl power is one that is worth the watch for the imagery alone. Immensely enjoyable and rough around the edges, the less you know about Shadow in the Cloud before watching, the better.
by Kelsie Dickinson