TIFF20: Shadow In The Cloud

When Maude Garrett (Chloe Grace Moretz) boards a B-17 Flying Fortress with top secret documents, the rest of the crew is surprised, and suspicious. Captain Reeves (Callan Mulvey) doesn’t know of any female pilots (it’s WW2, though I’m not sure they’re calling it that yet), and the other guys – Beckell (Nick Robinson), Williams (Beulah Koale), Tommy (Benedict Wall), Finch (Joe Witkowski), Taggart (Byron Coll) – are more interested in cat-calling her and making lewd remarks. None of them had anticipated an extra passenger and they’re suspicious of her documents, but she threatens court-marshals all around and they’re pretty anxious to get their wheels up, so off they go.

The movie takes almost entirely place inside of that plane. Maude is relegated to a tiny gun turret on the bottom of the plane that’s barely still attached, separated from her precious top-secret cargo. Of all the crew, only Quaid (Taylor John Smith) ever comes to her defense, but even he goes pretty silent when she starts babbling about some sort of…creature on the wing. They’re getting more resentful and increasingly skeptical, but they have bigger things to worry about, like bad weather, enemy planes, and their own flying fortress falling apart. And that’s before they discover what’s inside Maude’s top secret briefcase.

Roseanne Liang’s film is the Russian nesting doll of cinema: a monster movie within a horror movie within an action movie within a war movie, a daring and absurd mashup that works more than it doesn’t, surprisingly. It boldly confronts sexism and the super natural all in one go. It is, frankly speaking, sometimes altogether ridiculous. Unapologetically so, I believe. The film goes for broke while Moretz acts her ass off in a jumpsuit that doesn’t even showcase it. Director Liang isn’t afraid to crash and burn the whole thing if that’s what it takes. And as this film’s audience, you should be prepared to suspend your disbelief far above the Flying Fortress’ cruising altitude of 25 000 feet. It’s crazy. It’s completely bonkers. It is thrilling and terrifying and often flat-out bananas. You have to be willing to have fun with it, and willing to go along with a movie that refuses to stay within the bounds of any genre’s strict definition. If you’re in the mood for a quirky horror set piece, allow this one to surprise and delight and terrify you.

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