Saturday, October 30, 2021

Aviation Hallo-Watch: Shadow in the Cloud (2020)

if this scene seems unlikely, I have some big news for you about this film

Watched:  10/29/2021
Format:  Hulu
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Roseanne Liang

This movie is a mess, and I don't really get why it has "generally favorable" reviews on metacritic, other than that it twists itself in a pretzel to be a #metoo movie of the moment, dressed up in WWII and made by people who don't seem to know or care very much about the reality grounding the fantastic elements of their set-up.  

Moretz is a fine actor and it's great to see someone who was a kid actor show they can do this in a grown up role.  She looks the right age to be in the place she's at for 1943 or whatever this is.  But.  I think she needs to talk to her managers and agents.

It's WWII, and for some reason an all-Allies flight crew exists, which... fine.  Aussies, Scotsmen, Americans.  Flying a B-17.  A mysterious woman (ChloĆ« Grace Moretz) with a mysterious package gets on board a flight as its about to taxi, headed out from New Zealand to Somoa.  She says she's operating under orders from the local Major, a real hard ass, and *she's classified*.

Upon take-off, the airmen all begin piling on an entire year's worth of the worst, most tasteless conversation likely to occur, all while Moretz is on the comms.  Oh, and for some reason, the only place they have for her to sit is the underbelly turret of the B-17.  

Which, sure, you can make excuses that clearly the guys were being jerks, but it's really a plot contrivance so Moretz can spend half a movie crammed into a turret as the movie careens wildly between message picture, a melodrama, war picture, monster picture, and Moretz getting to work through a wide range of acting things as she fires at Zeros, battles a literal gremlin, comes clean about her failed marriage and affair, and MORE!  

There's some good CGI and a lot of iffy CGI, but it did make me wonder what a better equipped studio could do with a real plane or set and CGI for an aviation film.  

But there's tons of weird choices.  Like - why lock her in a bubble for an hour of the movie?  That's violence on actor and the DP, and surely part of the audience.  Despite an attempt at a Suicide Squad-like roll-call, you have NO IDEA who is yelling what at whom or what is going on with anyone but Moretz as you only hear their voice chatter.  I'm SURE the idea was that the accents would fix this problem, but...  no.  I couldn't keep up.  


Man, the movie struggles with a failure to Google.  Like, I don't know that much about WWII or aviation, but I know:  dudes wore flight suits even when flying at 8000 feet.  Or at least some sort of jacket.  It's near freezing at that height, and the cabin is not pressurized.  The hull is made of aluminum, so you're not exactly protected from the elements (or anything else).  We DO see Moretz is cold, but the crew is running around in t-shirts.  

IMDB has plenty of other "goofs" about the plane, and I'll let them see for yourself.   But it just feels sloppy.  Like everything in the movie feels sort of sloppy.  

What's the package?  A newborn baby.  That conveniently does not cry, even when buffeted around.  Dude, that baby would be incredibly dead half-way through the movie.  I just can't figure out how they didn't do... more to fix this as a problem at the script stage.  

But the script also wants to be so, so many things.  It just doesn't focus enough to do any of them well.  Frankly, it needed to decide if it was a monster movie or a melodrama, and instead tried to do too much without much skill at being either.  A movie about a woman getting on an airplane and her secrets being revealed while the Japanese show up and take potshots at them is *plenty* of movie.  But then having a fucking gremlin running around?  I mean - what's the point?  If you want to have a set-up about how the men don't trust her and then she's seeing a  monster - fine.  But we don't also need a backstory of abuse and unwanted pregnancies.  

And, MOST weird - she's only briefly upset that a possibly supernatural creature just flew up to her window at 8000 feet (I don't know why they were at 8000 feet, but I remember them mentioning that and thinking it's weird as these planes regularly did 3x that).  

I'll be honest, I don't think I'm a dumb person, but I couldn't figure out where she was going and why.  Stuff like that seems like it's super important to a movie, but this one kinda just tosses this stuff out - and I had a very hard time following what she actually wanted while I understood what she didn't want.  But running around in the Pacific theatre rather than going home to the US, which seems like the likely scenario, was... a choice.

It's 100% worth noting that this film was written by Max Landis, who I largely have thought of as an obnoxious dick since he was making web videos with his famous pals.  Notably, about 4 years ago Landis was accused of all manner of crimes and misbehavior, up to and including rape.  No charges were filed, but my understanding was that Landis was more or less done.  

Once you're aware this is Landis' script - and that Landis spent some time reckoning with whatever happened, I get that the script probably comes from a place as he both has done some work and seems to be using his work to make amends.  That's my read, anyway.*

But... it's too much.  The gross-out male behavior becomes cartoonish (and if Landis thinks this is how guys talk when they're alone, I think I might have identified part of his problem).  And the film's desire to prove Moretz is capable as a servicemember, human and mother becomes a physics defying adventure in wacky town.  

Again, it's like 30 degrees, and she's hanging from the underside of a wing of a plane going 250 mph or faster.  IT IS DUMB.  Someone...  Google how this works if you're going to make a movie.  I won't even get into the "and then a Zero blows up and she's tossed through the air" bit.  Or when they decide to invert the plane which I was pretty sure they'd said had only 2 working engines - and I was never clear why that was happening.  

I did actually watch this movie.

I mean, the movie didn't get a theatrical release of any note, so maybe I shouldn't be surprised, but people had to work on this thing from script to production to post production, and I guess no one did any math.  

And it's, again, a damn shame, because we're seeing Moretz do some real work here.  I was kind of fine with the movie when it was going to be mostly her in a bubble freaking out.  Weird choice for a 90 minute movie, but okay.  But, yeah, it's all so rapid fire and thing and after thing happening in the first hour or whenever they get her the hell out of the cockpit, that the kind of slow it down, let's have some character moments stuff just becomes part of an unpaced deluge.  Which is not the sign of a good editor or director.  Or script.

Anyway - at the end Moretz does hand to hand battle with a fucking gremlin with razor sharp talons and a constitution that allows it to survive at a mile-plus altitude.  But, sure.  Why not? at this point.

This movie is dumb in so many ways and it thinks its being smart and clever and sensitive (I guess), and maybe that's the most offensive thing.  They don't seem to know they made a bad movie.  

*I want to be crystal clear - I had no idea Max Landis worked on this movie until the final credits rolled, and I'd already written a little mental note to myself that this movie was not good enough to do what it was trying to do with its very clear and modern statements about women, gender roles, sexism, etc...  While it's honorable to try, you're getting a participation trophy, not an actual nod for "good movie" if the movie itself, is in fact, not good.  And it isn't.  That it's Landis' words at some level (I don't know how much participation he had in the end), just really adds a whole extra layer I'd prefer not to worry about, but here we are.

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