God this movie was weird. I mean really weird. One of the most insane popcorn flicks I’ve seen in a while…and yet I enjoyed it. “Shadow in the Cloud” is one of the first new major releases of 2021 and stars Chloe Grace Moretz as Flight Officer Maude Garrett, a woman with a secret mission who hops aboard a B-17 bomber during World War II and becomes embroiled in an attack on the plane and its crew by a mysterious creature mid-air. Clearly inspired by the classic “Twilight Zone” episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”, “Shadow in the Cloud” is led by director Roseanne Liang and provides a bonkers but thoroughly engaging mix of genres that requires plenty of extension of disbelief and turning off a few brain switches to enjoy.
“Shadow in the Cloud” is led by Chloe Grace Moretz who serves as the only woman in the film as she tries to fend off sexism and the raging libidos of a crew composed of Taylor John Smith, Beulah Koale, Nick Robinson, Callan Mulvey, Benedict Wall, Joe Witkowski and Bryon Coll. A huge theme of this movie is clearly to pay respect to the strong women who played a role in World War II with Moretz’s character Garrett serving as the main hero often overshadowing her male counterparts in more ways than one. If the idea of female empowerment turns you away however don’t worry, come for the subtext stay for the action. “Shadow in the Cloud” wastes little time getting right to the fun as a mysterious creature attacks the plane putting the crew and Garrett, as well as the contents of her mysterious package, at risk.
The action in this film kept me very well engrossed. A bulk of the first half confines Garrett to the Sperry, a lower turret on the plane, where she has to face the creature head on several times. The confines of the space make for a fun setting and allow for practical opportunities for Garrett to show the boys what she’s made of. However, eventually the film ditches this set piece and brings things back into the cockpit, as well as outside of the plane because yes, Garrett is such a badass she can climb on the outside of a plane in midair to protect her package and the crew. It’s completely bonkers and over-the-top, but also pretty fun and enjoyable. This movie has that “what am I watching” kind of charm to it where the imagination outweighs the practicality and believability of it all so much that you can’t help but embrace the insanity.
What’s cool is for a small cast who we barely get to know the crew is made up of some pretty likable guys who rightfully distrust Garrett but grow to appreciate her skills as they become required to help them survive. A few neat twists and turns also help keep the story moving while upping the stakes, especially once we discover exactly what Garrett is transporting. The writing isn’t anything too magical but there are a lot of moments where dialogue and interpersonal discussion are all we have to enjoy and, like most of the film, everything happens with such energy that it’s easy to appreciate the banter and how these moments allow us to understand the crew even though we can’t see them. It’s pretty clear that “Shadow in the Cloud” had to work with a small budget ($40,000 estimated to be exact) so Liang had to make do with minimal set pieces and simplified production. I think she did a fine job as it puts the viewer in Garrett’s position for much of the film allowing us to experience her anxiety as the attack takes place while she’s stuck in confinement. To that end it works in the same way “7500” worked in 2020 leaving a lot of what occurs behind closed doors open to the imagination. Sadly once the movie ditches the confines of the Sperry it fails to stick the landing with the same kind of style and ends on one hell of a ridiculous combat scene that had be both cheering and laughing the whole time.
“Shadow in the Cloud” is pure popcorn fun, and right in your living room too as it’s currently available on Amazon. You definitely have to turn your brain off to appreciate it and sometimes that’s just what you need from cinema, a bit of ridiculous escapism to keep you from thinking too hard. It still offers some interesting subtext about female soldiers in World War II and even honors them in the end credits while also putting a fun and inspired twist on an old horror staple with the creature attacking a plane. Moretz’ lead performance helps drive the film well while the production makes the most of a limited budget and resources. It’s not going to win any awards, but it does earn a recommendation from me if you’re seeking a movie that’s meant to be pure action-fantasy-horror-sci-fi escapism over anything else.