My mum asked me if I wanted to see Shadow in the Cloud with her. “I don’t think Dad would be interested.” At the time, I had just lost my fifth match of competitive Overwatch in a row, and I thought the distraction would be nice. So I said, “Sure.”
“Have you seen the trailer?” she asked. “No,” I replied, “but what I’ve seen of it, it kinda looks like a trash film.”
I meant that somewhat endearingly. People who know me well, know that I absolutely adore trash films like Hobbs and Shaw and The Meg. They’re both legitimately awesome and two of my favourite films. And besides, I didn’t actually know anything about Shadow in the Cloud, so maybe it wouldn’t actually be trash.
Well, it wasn’t trash. It was great trash. There might have been one or two moments where the movie decided to ignore physics, but they were awesome moments and I loved them as much as the rest of the movie.
The opening scene both surprised me in how well it set everything up, and also the credit that it was funded by the New Zealand Film Commission. That’s right, Shadow in the Cloud was written and directed by Chinese-Kiwi Roseanne Liang. Her first foray into writing/directing a Hollywood blockbuster, and since seeing this, I really want her to do more.
So what kind of movie did she write? We meet Flight Officer Maude Garrett (played by Chloë Grace Moretz), a female pilot and mechanic in World War II. She’s got a confidential package that needs to be escorted to Samoa. So she jumps on board American bomber The Fool’s Errand, much to the crew’s confusion and indignation. Cue war-time misogynistic comments, dog fights, and strange alien creatures attacking the plane. Perfect ingredients for a decent popcorn movie!
This is where people may disagree with my comment that the writing is great. I think it is. It’s wonderful. The first half of the movie is just Garrett sitting alone in the sperry (the ball turret on the bottom of warplanes) and talking to all the other characters via radio comms. It makes for some excellent suspense and great character building. The second half turns away from the horror/suspense and becomes more action packed, but the tension somehow continues to rise. And it made for a most enjoyable ride.
Shadow in the Cloud was a flipping fun movie about a competent woman who kicks ass. Forget Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel. Flight Officer Maude Garrett is who I want to be.
I don’t want to say much else about the movie. I’m dying to celebrate with someone the fricken last thing Garrett does (it’s just – yes. Yes. I am so, so, so glad they did that, and the whole movie is almost worth it for that). But I’ll add that the soundtrack is an absolute delight. It’s what the Wonder Woman 1984 soundtrack should have been. That awesome 80’s synthwave threaded through with sick rock was a joy to listen to every second it was on.
Oh, and Shadow in the Cloud’s music was composed by Māori composer Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper. I don’t know where the CG plane stuff was filmed, but there’s definitely a West Coast beach in there. So yes, this is a Kiwi-made film.
You can’t watch Shadow in the Cloud without seeing the social commentary. I personally think it played it pretty well. I’ve seen other films sit this kind of feminist message right in front of the audience and then spell it out to them like they’re toddlers.
But in Shadow in the Cloud, I felt the sexism was written to be experienced, rather than told about and told off for. That, and Garrett felt like a real woman, rather than some superhuman like Princess Diana or Rey.
Other than being a bit of a b-grade film, the biggest thing that dragged it down, was the green screening of the one scene outside the plane. It was pretty bad, to be honest, but that somehow didn’t take away from any tension the movie was trying to build, so not a lot was lost from it. Unless you’re super anal about that kind of thing, in which case there can’t be too many action films you would be able to enjoy throughout. But I digress.
As I left the cinema, I told Mum I was proud Shadow in the Cloud was a New Zealand film. And even now as I see the average score on Metacritic is 66/100 (which is pretty positive, to be fair!), I stand by that comment.
There’s not a lot going on in the cinemas at the moment. I know I haven’t been because there haven’t really been any interesting films out for a while. But this one. This one I would recommend you see. Don’t watch the trailer. Go in blind. See it with someone who would appreciate a stupid fun (but fun mainly because it’s pretty stupid tense) action movie. I certainly didn’t regret going. And without a shadow of a doubt, I would go see it again.