Though she’s done some nominally serious movies, Chloe Grace Moretz seems to be gunning for Milla Jovovich’s position as the premier female sci-fi-action hero of our age. Shadow in the Cloud has all the trappings of a project whipped up in an afternoon, but Moretz’s earnest performance and director Roseanne Liang’s willingness to tap any absurd narrative impulse make for a strangely thrilling piece of nonsense. The skinny is that the original script was reworked extensively after the writer, Max Landis, was accused of sexual abuse, and certain ideas clash obtrusively. If the movie succeeds on its own odd merits it’s because the people involved seem to believe to their souls that it works.
Moretz plays a flight officer during World War II who boards an allied bomber-supply plane in New Zealand with a box that she claims has to be delivered to the Philippines. Armed with papers that verify the package is “classified,” she gets on the flight at the last minute but the all-male crew doesn’t appreciate this extra body and play out their resentments with blatantly sexist banter, despite the fact that she outranks several of them. In any case, there’s no room for her in the hold, due to equipment they’re delivering, and she’s stuck in the lower gun turret, where most of the first half of the movie takes place as she listens to the guys’ offensive conversation through headphones. Though this setup necessarily limits the visual component, it manages to make for a lot of dramatic give-and-take thanks to Moretz’s command of her character, Maude, who is obviously hiding some kind of secret regarding the package and has to cover up her unease with a bluff assertiveness that doesn’t always convince her comrades.
But as this conceit plays out in an increasingly ridiculous manner the action prerogatives take over, first with an unexpected attack by Japanese zeros and then a totally batshit monster mash that was probably the original concept Landis was selling. I’m not certain how Liang changed the script, but, given the charge against Landis, I have a pretty good idea what it was and though it doesn’t work intellectually, much less logically, the resulting action is tightly packed and extremely well choreographed. By the mid-point, the sexual tensions that built up during the first half erupt into the most elemental expression of the survival instinct.
Now playing in Tokyo at Shinjuku Piccadilly (050-6861-3011), Shibuya Cine Quinto (03-3477-5905).
Shadow in the Cloud home page in Japanese
photo (c) Atarangi Kiriata Limited 2020