Chloë Grace Moretz has had quite the career for someone who is just 23 years old. She started at age 7, doing a variety of voice and supporting roles before she broke out as Hit-Girl in 2010’s Kick-Ass. Since then, moviegoers have watched her grow up in films like Let Me In, Hugo, Carrie, Neighbors 2, and The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Now, instead of being a kid acting more mature than her years, she finally gets to play a proper adult in the WWII thriller/horror, Shadow in the Cloud.
Moretz plays Maude Garrett, a mysterious figure who talks her way onto a B-17 bomber flying out of New Zealand. She’s carrying a secret package and claims to be a pilot, much to the derision of the crew. With no other place to sit, she’s forced into the ball turret under the belly of the plane, a claustrophobic area for even experienced fliers.
As the plane continues on its cargo mission, Maude is in the unique position to notice enemy planes and, to her horror, what appears to be a monstrous creature on the wing of the plane. Her questionable credentials and the misogyny of most of the crew cause her warnings to be dismissed, leaving her to fight off attacks on her own.
Directed by Roseanne Liang and written by Liang and Max Landis, the film is as tense as they come during its first half. Liang keeps the camera in the ball turret with Maude, so the audience experiences every fear and frustration right along with her. The rest of the crew exists only as voices on the radio, and their lack of compassion and unwillingness to listen to her is maddening, greatly adding to the tension.
Unfortunately, the film’s second half moves the action outside of the confined space, causing the story to deteriorate. Twists can make or break a narrative, and the ones this film contains let all the air out of the film’s taut storyline. Liang essentially switches the genre of the film from war movie to horror, and that change is not for the best.
In fact, the action turns ridiculous out of nowhere, a neck-snapping shift that’s difficult to reconcile. Because they did such an effective job at setting up Maude’s character in the first half, it’s easier to go along with her actions, no matter how preposterous. However, you have to focus hard on her and the rest of the crew’s humanity to accept everything that happens in the second half.
No matter what, though, Moretz remains a compelling actor. She’s called upon to do everything from subtle face acting to action sequences, and she’s up to the challenge of all of it. The supporting cast includes just one other actor, Nick Robinson, who will be familiar to most viewers, but none of them rise above the clichés of their characters, making it Moretz’s film through-and-through.
There’s enough in the first half of Shadow in the Cloud to recommend it as a fun lark, but it’s disappointing that Liang decided to change things up so drastically in the second half. Thank goodness she had Moretz to save the day, both as an actor and character.
Shadow in the Cloud is playing in select theaters and on premium video on demand starting January 1.