Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 29, 2021)
Audiences first got to know Chloë Grace Moretz primarily from her breakout performance as “Hit-Girl” in 2010’s Kick-Ass. 10 years later, she gets the lead in 2020’s Shadow in the Cloud, a mix of fantasy, horror and period action.
Set during World War II, Flight Officer Maude Garrett (Moretz) travels with a B-17 crew to deliver a secret package. As a woman in a “man’s job”, Maude finds herself tested by her compatriots.
Though she passes these tests, the crew eventually becomes to suspect Maude may not be who or what she claims. Paranoia and other concerns lead to problems during this important flight.
One of the most famous Twilight Zone episodes focused on a man who caused calamity on an aircraft when he saw a destructive monster on the vehicle’s wing. 1983’s Twilight Zone: The Movie even brought it back for an updated take on the story.
If you ever thought to yourself “I’d love to see that plot shifted to World War II with a young woman as the lead”, Cloud becomes the movie for you!
I felt a little reluctant to mention this aspect of the story, as it might fall into spoiler territory. However, Cloud offers a major hint that the movie will go this way, as it opens with a 1940s-style propaganda video that mentions “gremlins”, so the monster-related development comes as little surprise.
Cloud doesn’t solely pay homage to the Twilight Zone segment, though, as it broadens into other horizons. Some of these relate to mysteries connected to Garrett’s identity, whereas others stem from the nature of her secret package. We also deal with potential threats from enemy aircraft.
These fall into “MacGuffin” territory for the most part. Most of Cloud focuses on that gremlin, so the rest of the film can feel like window-dressing.
A lot of window-dressing, though, as Cloud throws everything it can find at us to fill space. As noted, the film really does act largely as an adaptation of the Twilight Zone sequence, so the filmmakers need to find added content to stretch the movie to feature length.
Even so, they barely make it, as Cloud clocks in at a mere 83 minutes. Honestly, this project probably would’ve worked better as a 30-minute short, for all those story/character detours don’t make sense.
Cloud throws so many twists and curveballs our way that they can seem borderline ridiculous. Of course, a movie about a plane-destroying monster doesn’t exactly live in the real world, but even so, the number of plot shifts seem excessive and silly.
We get so many different elements that these make the movie seem desperate. I get the impression the filmmakers lacked confidence in any single story beat so they padded the movie with a bunch of narrative components due to fears they’d lose the audience otherwise.
Probably the most intriguing aspect of Cloud stems from its perspective. After a quick intro to the crew, the vast majority of the movie sticks solely with Maude, as we mostly hear from the others over the intercom and we never leave her side.
Truthfully, I suspect Cloud made this choice for budgetary reasons. It becomes easier to shoot a movie that essentially exists as a one-actor piece than if they need to wrangle a larger cast.
Still, this choice adds some claustrophobia to the experience. Whether due to a lack of funds or not, the decision to stay with one character so much of the time works.
Unfortunately, not much else about the goofy and over the top Cloud succeeds. Even for a genre flick, it seems too absurd and ludicrous to become a winning flick.