Chloe Grace Moretz Takes the Lead in This Feminist WWII/Monster Movie

Directed by Roseanne Liang

Starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Taylor John Smith

Rated R

Released January 1st, 2021

In 1943, Flight Officer Maude Garrett (Chloe Grace Moretz) boards a B-17 bomber named The Fool’s Errand, informing the crew she has a classified mission and top-secret package to deliver during their flight from Auckland to Samoa. The misogyny and harassment Maude endures over the course of her trip is immediate and unrelenting, thanks to the toxic masculinity ever-present in 1940s (and some could argue current day) America. 

Maude handles the crew’s inappropriate comments with the stoicism of someone used to hearing such things, though she is not slow to stand up for herself when pushed too far. The crew, upset about having a woman on board, put her in the bomber’s ball turret as the plane flies to its destination. Maude is forced to hand her very important package over to one of the crewmen, Staff Sergeant Walter Quaid (Taylor John Smith), one of the only people on board who greeted her with kindness. 

What is Maude’s mission, what is her top-secret cargo, and will this crew keep their mitts off her? Before we get the answers to those questions, Japanese forces attack. To complicate matters, so do gremlins. The bat-like creatures start ripping the plane apart and chaos ensues. Predictably, the crew is so much cannon fodder, but just because you can see where the story is going doesn’t mean the journey isn’t a good time. 

At times Shadow in the Cloud is a one-woman show, with long passages that focus solely on Maude while the rest of the crew (including Nick Robinson, and a stand-out Byron Coll) is only heard over comms. This brings to mind the excellent Steven Knight film Locke, which similarly isolated Tom Hardy, and recalls radio dramas from the 1930s, like SuspenseX Minus 1, and Escape

While not the best film she’s been involved with (that would be Clouds of Sils Maria), this is probably my favorite performance yet from Chloe Grace Moretz. She carries the film with a steely precision that most actors would kill for, juggling accents, action, and tears. 

Moretz has commented that the filmmakers distanced themselves from original screenwriter Max Landis after he was accused of sexual assault prior to production, and that the script had been re-written numerous times by director Roseanne Liang.

A feminist war film/monster movie/period piece, the tone for this project could have been all over the place. But Director/Co-Writer Liang knows exactly what she’s shooting for and pulls together the disparate threads nicely. This includes an over-the-top ending battle, with allusions to Road House, which I imagine would play to cheers at midnight screenings in the years to come. The CGI on the gremlins is as impressive as you’d expect, given that the effects were handled by legendary SFX studio WETA. 

Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper’s wonderful score colors the action and peril with out-of-time electronic blips and bloops reminiscent of Daft Punk’s work on Tron: Legacy. I also appreciated the use of Hounds of Love by Kate Bush over the end credits, as we are treated to archival footage of women serving in the Air Force during World War Two.

Despite its ominous title, Shadow in the Cloud is more interested in delivering pulpy fun than terrifying scares. If you enjoy creature features, there is plenty of fun to be had.