TIFF: Partly creature, part war nightmare, completely unpredictable. Roseanne Liang's latest version is the craziest feminist adventure of the year.
Built around enough wild concepts that it sounds a bit like a Hollywood pitch meeting that's seriously derailed – it's a creature feature! Set on a World War II B-17! filled with misogynistic soldiers! and the star is a badass woman! The soundtrack is synth-heavy! – The craziest thing about Roseanne Liang's nut "Shadow in the Cloud" is that she almost pulled it off. Backed by an effort by star Chloë Grace Moretz and an energy that never wears off (even given things like "logic" and "physics" and "common sense"), "Shadow in the Cloud" is what most Bonkers mix monster movie and World War II drama for at least this year. (The subgenre is fertile, to say the least.)
What Liang and Moretz bring in, however, is a feminist freshness that feels original even in such a crowded field. Audiences who are willing and able to immerse themselves in their particular brand of wacky horror will likely enjoy it best (once you accept the opportunity to fly gremlins, it's easy to imagine the rest of it going smoothly too) , but Liang also maintains a steady tension during its narrow running time of 83 minutes, this should appeal to even die-hard horror and action fans.
Liang's film begins with a brisk animation that aims to introduce and discredit the possibility that gremlins – actually gremlins – are responsible for malfunctions in the Allied Air Force fleet. He makes it clear early on that they are working on their own wavelength. And that's before it goes into the opening credits, which hints at both the darkness of war film (it's August 1943) and a cheeky bias towards the fun of genre film (the score feels torn from a slasher film of the 80s). At the center of it all is Maude Garrett, a British flight officer (yes, civil women served in the war, although the fact that Maude is not a "real" soldier becomes a massive point of contention throughout the film) her way down a nervous B -17.
Something is clearly wrong when Maude steps aboard The Fool’s Errand, a stunning bomber about to experience a sudden nightly supply drop. Through the fog and mist appears the plane that was shot down with the same awe and fear that Michael Bay applied to his Transformers (no, really). Nobody on the plane wants her on their trip – well, maybe a person does – and the fact that she is "a lady, a woman, a woman"! nothing helps, and neither does the radio pocket she is holding to her chest and will only explain that she is part of her top-secret mission. While most of the male side stars melt into one another, the twists and turns of Nick Robinson, Taylor John Smith, and Callan Mulvey (as a convincing captain) manage to stand out.
Maude is pushed into the rickety ball revolver in the belly of the aircraft and exposed to endless rabble and misogynist chatter over the radio. He gets used to it quickly. For its lean first act, "Shadow in the Cloud" cleverly combines both the vibrancy of a radio play (Maude and the audience get to know the soldiers above by listening to them moan on their communications) and the claustrophobia of one individual. Location set drama. Maude may be alone, but her point of view offers her some unique views and soon she tries to silence the noisy men above her to better let them see that two very different threats are targeting The Fool's Errand .
First there's the Japanese Plan (which isn't alone) and then the Gremlin (he's not alone either), a crazy combination of very real enemy and B-movie madness that is used to keep "Shadow in the Cloud" going . Liang's ability to keep the tension taut and Moretz's winking ability to do almost anything sell even the sharpest turns in the film, and the film moves between genres at the speed of a jet fighter. Part of the creature, part of the nightmare of war, is hell and all geared towards reducing the misogynist idiots that populate it. There's enough dizzying fun to drive “Shadow in the Cloud” through pretty much anything.
But even this midnight movie has some really unexpected surprises in store for its audience, and good luck guessing what's in Maude's pocket (and why this mission is really that top secret). The revelation doesn't quite coincide with the rest of the preceding, but it serves to put Maude in even sharper relief, making Moretz, who long ago proved her superhero bonafides, a human character who often feels invincible Can give grade. As the action wears off (and the quality of everything filmed in front of a green screen goes down), “Shadow in the Cloud” is no longer silly fun, a choice largely made possible by Moretz & # 39; s strong performance , his game is saved for each case or emotion.
Even before the film was made, it was the subject of some controversy when co-writer Max Landis was accused of multiple sexual misconduct cases. The film was rewritten several times before it was shot – Moretz himself stated in a 2019 interview that the production team "distanced us completely from him" – and while only Liang's name appears on the IMDb page of the film, Landis is in the final crawl of the film.
While it's impossible to know if it was Landis or Liang who wrote the lines like "She has one of those mouths that you can fuck," the film draws on enough vibrant feminist energy to almost forgive whoever fired that blast. It certainly has enough firepower to prove that Liang and Moretz are more than capable of initiating this insane feminist adventure for a smooth landing.
"Shadow in the Cloud" premiered at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival. Distribution in the USA is currently being sought.