Shadow In The Cloud is the kind of film that doesn’t know what it wants to be when it grows up… and I think I like it that way.
As a film, it is as much a monster horror as it is a war film, and it is just as much sci-fi/fantasy as it is a thriller… yes, it is a very hard film to try and pigeon-hole. This all gets much trickier when I point out the fact that three-quarters of the action of the film takes place in a small section that barely gives leads actress Chloe Grace-Moretz room to physically move.
Moretz plays Maude Garrett a young woman who boards an Air Force plane in New Zealand right at the height of World War II. The all-male crew which include John Reeves (Callan Mulvey) and Anton Williams (Beulah Koale) are suddenly put out by having a ‘dame’ on their plane. Most make disgusting and degrading comments about what they would like to do to the ‘bird’ with very few making any effort to protect her. The general consensus is that they certainly don’t want a woman on their plane when they are already running such a mundane mission.
Maude’s only saving grace is the mystery surrounding the highly secretive package that she is in charge of and the fact that she carries orders from a high-ranking officer that the others fear. With very little space on board the flight though, they stow Maude away from the rest of the crew. However, secrets start to be revealed when she is one of the first to spot the ‘gremlin’ that is ripping apart the plane while they are being shadowed by enemy planes.
I am still a little confused as to what director Roseanne Liang (My Wedding And Other Secrets) was trying to create with this film. Was she trying to turn Chloe Grace Moretz into an action hero like we recently saw with Milla Jovovich in Monster Hunter, or was she trying for something a little more? Certainly, there is something that I liked about this film despite its weaknesses. I loved the twists and turns that the plot took as secrets unravelled. Yes, they are kind of hard to believe but at the same time, I was watching a movie where a winged creature was attacking a plane as well.
What I do know is that the action worked and we saw a new string in the bow of the acting talents of Moretz. At times, she is asked to put in a theatre-like performance in a tight space, while also playing an action lead – a weird mix that I dare say would not be able to be pulled off by many performers out there. The creature looks amazing, no surprise there, seeing as it was designed and created by Weta Workshop. Although, the film is sometimes let down by its cheesy soundtrack and at times dodgy looking CGI, which I guess I was supposed to overlook as part of the film’s steam-punk vibe.
Director Roseanne Liang also successfully makes her point about sexism in the workplace. What the all-male crew (who for majority of the film are reduced to voices over a radio) say about Maude is disgusting and I am pretty sure it would have even the most hardened chauvinist seeing the errors of their ways. Liang also reveals a side of history that a lot like to ignore – the role of women during the World Wars. No, they were not all at home darning socks.
At the end of the day, Shadow In The Cloud does work. The action sequences onboard the plane suggest that Liang is a director that we need to be watching in future. While the final battle sequence may have been simple, they were exactly what I felt was necessary to finish off the film.
Shadow In The Cloud might be a mixing of genres but it is certainly worth the admission fee at the box office.