Shadow in the Cloud, Heart in the Throat

I recently spoke ill of Chloe Grace’s talents while reviewing the exceptionally mediocre Tom & Jerry and her mostly spiritless performance therein. I take back what I said, implying her childhood talents seen in the likes of Kick-Ass had essentially disappeared in her elder years. Judging from Shadow in the Cloud, she is clearly still a physical and verbal force to be reckoned with on screen.

Written by semi-talented Hollywood pariah Max Landis (many of his scripts are quite good, so sue me) and directed by newcomer Roseanne Liang, this is a bang-up shoot-em-up set pretty much entirely on a WWII fighter plane flying over the Pacific. It’s a silly, nimble, seriously fun midnight-movie romp that expertly ratchets the tension for Grace’s flight officer Maude Garrett, a woman beset by a jet full of misogynist jackasses, give or take a nice guy or two (Nick Robinson, Taylor John Smith). Her mission, to safely escort a package for a higher authority in the Air Force, isn’t at all what it seems. The inevitable reveal is quite astonishing, perhaps ludicrous to some, and though I initially reacted unfavorably myself, the action sequence that follows is so resolutely thrilling that “white-knuckle” doesn’t even do it justice. I was writhing on my couch watching Garrett hang on for dear life and navigate her completely fucked situation, an aerial dynamo involving her, the package, and an oceanic gremlin not dissimilar from a giant bat that has taken aim to their little plane and decided to wreak havoc. Granted, I have a fear of great heights, so any scene set in the skies with folks climbing or hanging in the clouds prompts a terrible yet joyful anxiety in me. An almost one-woman show, Grace is exceptional, holding the screen with a calm and occasional ferocity that definitely recalls her claim to fame hero at times. Her sensitivity and physicality complement one another instead of contradicting each other, as is often the case with many actors, the Vin Diesels or Gal Gadots of the world who are unable to reconcile the two because they’re simply not believable at feeling. She’s surrounded by a cast mostly heard, not seen, as a majority of the time is spent with Garrett in a terrifyingly rocky turret bunker. Their sexism is mildly over-the-top in its insistence, its never-ending rambunctiousness. While Shadow in the Cloud isn’t pretending to evoke realism (think Indiana Jones), the manner-less lack of subtlety to their misogyny comes across as 1980’s Wall Street more than an uber-polite 1940’s Air Force. Nevertheless, their villainy makes for vigorous comeuppance when the time comes, and that’s what every midnight movie requires in spades.

Coupled with unexpectedly believable effects, down to the creature itself and even the finicky art of green screen, as well as a tone that expertly mixes soaring heroism with reality-check cynicism, Shadow in the Cloud is another example (after Love & Monsters) of how we can never completely write off these cheeky video-on-demand offerings. And do sue me for writing off Chloe Grace, who gives a heroic star performance that oughta spell another superhero in her future, should she be so inclined.

Grade: B+

Currently available to rent on video-on-demand services

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