“Shadow in the Cloud” is a rather amusing mix of fantasy and war action film with some feminist touches to be appreciated. Although the resulting mix is not entirely successful on the whole, it is at least anchored well by the strong lead performance packed with enough pluck and spirit to hold our attention during its short running time (83 minutes), and I must confess that I came to chuckle more than once even while observing its several absurdly preposterous moments from the distance.
After the prologue scene which shows us a silly old-fashioned animation clip, the movie promptly throws us into the situation of its young heroine played by Chloë Grace Moretz. It is August 1943, and we see Moretz’s character hurriedly preparing for her departure from an air force base in Auckland, New Zealand, though the movie does not tell or show us the purpose of this departure of hers except her destination. Shortly after arriving at the air force base, she looks for a B-17 bomber supposed to take to her destination, and, what do you know, that B-17 bomber in question suddenly appears right in front of her.
Anyway, she instantly gets on this B-17 bomber, and its all-male crew members are not so pleased about having her on their bomber. Because she comes with a document showing that she is on some special mission as reflected by a mysterious bag in her possession, they do not object to her boarding on their plane, but their hostility mixed with blatant sexism is palpable to us as well as her, and we are not so surprised when she is demanded to sit inside a ball turret below the floor just because there is not any other spot for her to sit on the floor.
Anyway, though she has to step back a bit as she lets one of the crew members take care of that mysterious bag, our heroine is totally fine with sitting inside the ball turret, and we see how stuffy and vulnerable the ball turret is in many aspects. While its hatch should be unlocked on both sides, she is only protected by its cage of glass and metal, and it goes without saying that this space will be one of the most vulnerable spots on the bomber if the bomber is ever attacked by those Japanese fighters, though the captain of the bomber assures that there is not much possibility of getting attacked because they are far from front line regions.
And our heroine turns out to be have considerable grit and skills compared to the crew members of the bomber. After she happens to listen to how they casually make fun of her, she firmly reminds them that, as a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), she is more qualified than any of them, though she still keeps her mouth shut about that mission supposed to be accomplished by her.
When she later comes to notice a couple of two suspicious things, the mood gradually becomes more tense. First, she briefly spots the presence of an enemy plane flying not so far from the bomber, but her report is promptly dismissed by the captain of the bomber, and he comes to suspect her and her mission more than before as she often emphasizes that her bag should not be opened at any chance.
In addition, she also witnesses a weird entity hanging on one of the wings of the plane, but, again, nearly everyone else on the bomber does not believe her at all – even when she is attacked by that entity in question and then it viciously damages the bomber step by step. The crew members of the bomber are certainly perplexed and scared by a series of inexplicable malfunctions in the bomber, but they continue to disregard her urgent warnings while desperately trying to figure out what the hell is going on.
This is clearly a cross between “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” of American TV anthology series “The Twilight Zone” and your average World War II action movie, and director/co-writer Roseanne Liang, who did a lot of re-writing on the original screenplay written by Max Landis, keeps things rolling as increasing the level of tension. Although the story occasionally feels contrived, the movie never loses its narrative momentum as diligently juggling many different threats and dangers hurled toward its heroine and other characters, and it even willingly goes all the way for silliness during some of its action scenes, which are as goofy and outrageous as those Fast and Furious movies.
It is a shame that the finale is perfunctory compared to all those preposterous moments preceding it, but the movie is still supported fairly well by Moretz’s considerable presence and talent. Since her breakthrough turn in “Kick-Ass” (2010), Moretz has been one of the most interesting and exciting young actresses working in Hollywood, and she is quite convincing here as never overlooking what is being at stake for her character. Yes, several spectacular action scenes in the film are apparently based on a lot of CGI, but Moretz imbues them with real human reactions, and her expression of fear and anxiety surely reminds me again of my deep aversion to high places.
In conclusion, “Shadow in the Cloud” has a number of weak aspects which distracted me during my viewing (The supporting characters surrounding Moretz’ character are more or less than your typical war movie stock characters, for example), but it is not a total waste of time at all. I wish it went wilder with its outrageous story premise, but it has a fair share of entertainment at least, and you may give it a chance if you have lots of free time to spend.