Monsters Are No Match for Chloë Grace Moretz in Zany WWII Sci-Fi ‘Shadow in the Cloud’
Chloë Grace Moretz is put to the test in “Shadow in the Cloud,” a sci-fi action thriller set during World War II. Moretz plays Maude Garrett, a flight officer who hitches a ride with an all-male crew on a B-17 Flying Fortress named “The Fool’s Errand” that is leaving from Auckland. The men are far from chivalrous to their guest, and they stuff her in a Sperry turret, despite her protests that she must stay in the main area and protect some precious cargo she is carrying in a mysterious leather bag (there’s not enough room in the turret for both her and the cargo). Lt. Walter Quiad (Taylor John Smith) promises to protect the mysterious cargo, but nothing can prepare the crew for the horrors that await them in the sky.
In the beginning, Maude has a British accent that sounds horrendous, but it eventually comes to light that this is not bad acting on Moretz’s part, as Maude has a major secret. Naturally, the men are curious about the contents of the leather bag, but she orders them not to open it, promising them that anyone who does would have to face a court martial. She is confined to the Sperry for the whole first half of the film, giving it a rather claustrophobic feel. To make matters worse, she has to listen to crude comments from men who don’t realize that she can hear them over the radio. Once she clues them in, one would think that they would rein it in, but this is hardly the case, and Private Stu Beckell (Nick Robinson, playing against type) is the worst offender.
So entrenched are these guys in their toxic behavior that they ignore Maude’s warnings about an approaching Japanese aircraft. Fortunately for them, she saves their lives. While they are definitely jackasses for not listening to her about the enemy plane, we can initially forgive them when they don’t take the real threat, flying gremlins, seriously after Maude first spots one on the wing of the plane.
The introduction of the gremlins turns “Shadow in the Cloud” into a bona fide bonkers B-movie. Without them, it would have simply been a chessy historical adventure. When director Roseanne Liang was writing the screenplay with Max Landis, the pair must have envisioned something more frightful than what we see on screen. Sure, mutated creatures created by the enemy are scary, but there were already so many very real threats during WWII that the monsters seem superfluous.
There’s a major twist in “Shadow in the Cloud,” and it is hard to discuss the action-packed final act without giving too much away. Suffice to say, an instinct kicks in for Maude, and she proves herself to be quite the warrior, succeeding where the men fail, although the co-pilot, Anton Williams (Beulah Koale), the only Black member of the crew, rises to the occasion. Even Maude’s romantic partner proves to be something of a weeney. While this is far from Oscar-worthy fare, Moretz flexes new muscles here, showing off her inner badass and more serious side.
“Shadow in the Cloud” releases Jan. 1 on VOD and in select cities.