Cinematic Releases: Shadow in the Cloud (2020) - Reviewed


Chinese-New Zealand based film director Roseanne Liang’s first domestic production Shadow in the Cloud is another one of those sci-fi/horror and WWII film hybrids ala Overlord or Trench 11 which drops a farfetched premise within the confines of a period war actioner.  Loosely based (with heavy rewrites) on a Max Landis screenplay without the disgraced screenwriter’s involvement, the film is a feminist reimagining of Memphis Belle by way of Nightmare at 20,000 Feet in which female pilot Maude (ChloĆ« Grace Moretz) shunned by her male comrades spots a gremlin tearing away at the plane from the ball turret. 
Initially it’s a claustrophobic endurance test for Maude locked in the ball turret unable to defend herself against catcalls before abruptly shifting gears into a larger than life comic book action fantasy as she engages in fierce battle with the aforementioned gremlin.  Ostensibly two films comprised into one, it requires a wealth of suspending one’s disbelief but once that 80s retro score kicks in, you hardly mind that you’re watching a videogame film.  While lacking the production values of Overlord with some pretty outlandish greenscreen rendered stunts, Shadow in the Cloud makes up for the technical shortcomings and gaps in plausibility with a fierce heroine who more or less becomes the emblem of the uphill battle women face in the military.

Yes the film is a check-your-brain-at-the-door distraction but as such joins 2020’s Promising Young Woman with one of the stronger heroines asserting herself in a suffocatingly male dominated arena.  This is due in large part to ChloĆ« Grace Moretz who makes you root for her even after her surprising James Bond turn.  The ensemble male cast of characters serve up the antagonism well though much of the dialogue is spoken over the intercom with Maude unable to defend herself against the chauvinistic verbal attacks, making her predicament that much more of a near insurmountable goal.
Visually and sonically the film lets you know this isn’t meant to be taken 100% seriously with neon lit cinematography by Kit Fraser and an 80s synth influenced original score by Mauhia Bridgman-Cooper, deliberately displacing the film’s modern tonality with the period setting.  Sandwiched together, Shadow in the Cloud is an entertaining mismash of otherwise disparate movies into one silly but sincere package. 

While some will understandably be put off by the appearance of the name Max Landis on the credits, the film as it stands bears no traces of his involvement and functions as a decent B-movie diversion at a time when the movies could use more doses of larger than life distraction.  Yes the picture is somewhat juvenile but its heart is in the right place and will leave thrill seeking filmgoers feeling exhilarated.

--Andrew Kotwicki