During the skyward journey of the World War II bomber plane Fool’s Errand, the fact that it’s under constant fire by Japanese fighters is about the third biggest emergency facing it. That tells you something about Roseanne Liang’s Shadow in the Cloud, a brief and batty bit of pulp science fiction. This is a movie where it’s easier to admire its sheer brazenness as opposed to ultimately enjoying it.
Taking place in 1943, Maude Garrett (Chloe Grace Moretz) is a flight officer who turns up on the Fool’s Errand with a bag not to be opened under any circumstances. She tells the crew it is Top Secret material. In this era, females weren’t the top of their professions at really anything and she is greeted derisively by nearly all of the all-male soldiers. The sympathetic Staff Sgt. Quaid (John Taylor Smith) is the primary exception.
Confined to the aircraft’s Sperry, the ride gets bumpier for Maude. And how. In addition to the aforementioned enemy attacks, there’s a gremlin terrorizing the crew as well. However, the biggest complication arrives midway through the 83 minutes runtime when the contents of Maude’s baggage is revealed. Whether you go along with it might determine your eventual verdict. I would just say that a kitschy 1940s paperback telling the same tale would probably insert the same twist.
Saying more would enter spoiler territory. Cloud‘s screenplay was originally penned by Max Landis and he still shares writing credit with the director. The script was reworked after Landis got into serious hot water with accusations of sexual misconduct. Not knowing how draft one read, Liang has fashioned Maude into a feminist badass who’s usually a step ahead of the grunts onboard. There’s shades of Ripley from the Alien series given the genre and other plot points I won’t speak of. Believe it or not, the comparisons in terms of quality are rather far apart.
Moretz receives plenty of camera attention alone in the Sperry as chaos erupts around her. The budget prevents a full viewing of the action and the actress’s facial expressions do a commendable job of conveying the litany of emotions she must go through. Cloud delivers limited thrills in terms of actual screen time and moments that stick. It’s as if there’s not enough minutes to truly embrace its sheer B movie absurdity.
**1/2 (out of four)