Imagine what film historians will say about the movies made during the Trump presidency.
Some films simply stop cold to wag their fingers at us.
“Shadow in the Cloud” does just that, but its cinematic crimes are far more extensive. The pulpy World War II thriller squeezes plenty of woke notes into its scant 83 minutes. It’s what surrounds the lectures, though, that will leave future audiences scratching their heads.
Are we witnessing the birth of the next, “so-bad-it’s-good” classic, or just 2021’s first trainwreck?
Captain Maude Garrett (Chloe Grace Moretz) joins the all-male crew of a B-17 bomber at the literal last minute, and no one is happy to see her. They spend what feels like hours slinging every possible slur against both her and women in general, your first neon sign of the film’s broader mission.
Maude persists, and up the bomber goes up into the sky. The insults continue, but they’re interrupted by something Maude sees from her perch in the bomber’s gun turret. Could it be a gremlin, the subject of endless pilot conspiracies?
The same flyboys who pelted Maude with insults dismiss her warnings. They may change their minds after the critter starts tearing into the bomber’s hull.
Maude didn’t join the mission empty handed. She brought a valuable package aboard, and its contents cannot be divulged to anyone. It’s top secret stuff, don’tcha know? It’s also the funniest MacGuffin of the last decade, maybe more.
Not intentionally funny, mind you, just uproariously dumb. Words can’t capture the stupidity of this plot device.
Then again, dumb is the operative word throughout “Shadow in the Cloud,” an awful title for one of the daffiest movies to come our way in ages. The story is so bonkers we’re tempted to lean into its buffoonery. Director/co-writer Roseanne Liang won’t have it, keeping the tone ultra serious when she should be letting everyone in on the joke.
Nope. Instead, the story lurches on, taking maudlin turns which generate snickers, not scares.
“Shadow in the Cloud” grabs our attention early on, and in legitimate fashion. A clever animated short opens the movie, playing cheekily into the film’s “gremlin” threat.
Moretz remains a committed actress regardless of the material in play. She phones nothing in here, even if other actors might have done just that.
Could you blame them?
Heck, anyone keeping their composure in this debacle deserves some kind of honor. It may not spare her from the Razzies’ wrath, though.
The film’s third act sheds any semblance of sanity. A new threat to both Maude and the bomber enters the frame, but only long enough to set up some stupefying on-screen deaths. Maude pulls off stunts James Bond wouldn’t try. The scurrilous gremlin, the film’s only credible FX in a sea of shoddy green scenery, fails to live up to its early potential.
And then there’s the men in the cast, rendered as one large gob of dopey testosterone. Maude’s eye-rolling back story plays into that unsightly portrait.
It’s worth noting that co-screenwriter Max Landis brings an ugly rap sheet to this uber-feminist fiasco. The Daily Beast reported that eight women have accused Landis of sexual and emotional abuse, charges he initially ignored.
Star Moretz routinely talks about being a loud and proud Hollywood feminist.
UPDATE: Team “Shadow” did what they could, allegedly, to remove Landis’ work from the project after a second wave of allegations against the writer hit.
It goes without saying that Maude is a Mary Sue on steroids. She’s perfectly heroic and can do no wrong. She knows everything about, well, everything. Her unchallenged perfection makes a final clash both tension-free and laugh-out-loud funny.
Step aside, Tommy Wiseau. Your “Room” has some company.
HiT or Miss: “Shadow in the Cloud” is an inexplicable viewing experience, a gonzo thriller that thinks it’s making a bold statement about equal rights.