Review by Sean Boelman
The Midnight Madness section at the Toronto International Film Festival is known for bringing at least one entry that is so bonkers and off-the-wall that one can’t help but enjoy it. And despite the category being slimmed down to only three selections this year, it definitely delivered with Roseanne Liang’s badass action-horror Shadow in the Cloud.
The film follows a young female pilot travelling onboard a WWII cargo flight with a classified mission involving a sensitive package as she and the plane’s crew discover that there may be an unexpected stowaway throwing a hitch into their plans. Starting with a tongue-in-cheek introduction, this feels like the creature features of yore in all the best ways.
Liang’s film is a very minimalistic thriller, and it’s enormously entertaining for the entirety of its brief runtime. The first forty-five minutes trap the audience mostly in a small chamber with the protagonist with dialogue delivered through the radio, before the last half-hour goes absolutely nuts in a chaotically energetic way.
Apart from a few shots that very obviously used green screen effects, the film looks pretty great. Even the CGI for the monster looks really cool. But the more impressive elements of the execution are the ways in which Liang takes advantage of her limitations, by creating tension within the confined location of the cargo plane.
There are definitely some issues with the script, like a third act twist that is rather anticlimactic, but for the most part, it’s a ton of fun. The over-the-top misogyny and machismo is probably the scariest thing in the film, but it’s also some excellent satire and a wonderful way for Liang to reclaim her film given its origins.
The character development in the film is one of its greatest weaknesses. Disappointingly, there isn’t much of an arc, with the protagonist going from a mysterious drifter to a powerful heroine in what seems to be an instant when a reveal is made. And all of the supporting characters are basically caricatures (albeit in a funny way).
That said, Chloë Grace Moretz absolutely owns this film. She made her big break with a performance in a cheeky action flick, so it’s nice to see her getting to return to the genre. Her screen presence is phenomenal, and she handles the action sequences, especially the last one, in a way that is awesome.
Shadow in the Cloud may not be the most intelligent film to come out of this year’s festival circuit, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun. It’s a popcorn flick that has a ton of rewatch value because it’s mindlessly enjoyable.
Shadow in the Cloud screened as a part of the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival which ran September 10-19.