Entrusted with protecting a mysterious package, pilot officer Maude joins the crew of the B-17 bomber The Fool’s Errand and finds that to complete her mission she will have to survive a flight besieged by enemy aircraft and a monstrous stowaway.
Director: Roseanne Liang
Writers: Max Landis, Roseanne Liang
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Taylor John Smith, Beulah Koale, Nick Robinson, Callan Mulvey
Shadow in the Cloud (2020) offers an odd and unexpectedly compelling mix of genres in a film that doesn’t waste any time cranking up the tension. When she persuades her way onto the B-17 bomber known as The Fool’s Errand, flight officer Maude (Moretz) immediately finds herself having to deal with a hostile crew. They don’t want her there. They don’t care about her mission. They want nothing to do with her apart from leer over how cute she is. When the only safe place to sit her on takeoff is the gunner turret under the plane, so begins a gruelling ordeal that could end the lives of everyone on board.
Mixing WW2 with elements of The Twilight Zone and EC horror comics, the film is a compelling prospect helped hugely by the strong cast. Chloë Grace Moretz is perfectly cast as Maude, bringing her customary flair and grit to the role and giving the viewer a lead to genuinely root for. As the majority of the film’s first half takes place inside the gunner turret with Maude, the remainder of the cast are seldom seen onscreen for most of the movie’s modest run time. With a strange and lethal presence attacking the plane and enemy aircraft seeking out a target, those on board The Fool’s Errand have more than just a passenger they don’t like to contend with.
Liang’s direction keeps things winding tighter throughout the film’s duration, making it a tense viewing experience that sticks with you after the credits roll. She has a great understanding of characterisation (as well as the myriad ways characters can goad each other beyond endurance) and with such a good cast it’s easy to get swept up in the story. The mix of WW2 and monster elements takes a little getting used to as the two genres don’t really go hand in hand very often, but the film manages to balance those two disparate elements well, mainly focusing on the war aspect and the crew’s irritation with each other. Once the creature scenes kick in, they’re surprising in their severity and rather than going against the story, they really embellish it. It’s a really well-shot movie and the scenes including air battles and action outside the plane give scale to a story that would otherwise be largely confined to that claustrophobic little gun turret.
The interplay between the cast moves along with a mutual simmering dislike, with Maude’s claims of seeing a ‘shadow’ – i.e. a murderous, vampire-like creature – bringing her ever more derision until everything goes to Hell. When the action kicks in the film switches from a tense thriller to an action/horror hybrid that delivers the goods visually and thematically. There’s one effects sequence which shows the limitations of the budget. It takes the viewer out of the action briefly, but thankfully you’re soon back to wondering how the crew could possibly stay alive.
Shadow in the Cloud fills its speedy 83-minute running time with a lot of excitement, building tension and pulpy thrills. The film looks and sounds great. Its mashup of WW2 action and creature feature scares makes for a fun watch, and the performance from Moretz is as punchy and compelling as we have come to expect from a star who has really earned her stripes. The script and direction are tight and there’s literally no fat to trim from the story. It’s a lean and satisfying movie with guts, gusto and a nasty gremlin along for the ride.