TIFF20: Shadow in the Cloud

Set during WWII, Shadow in the Cloud is an action-packed horror movie that stars Chloe Grace Moretz as Maude Garrett, a flight officer who embarks on a secret mission to deliver a confidential package. As a woman alone in a group of men on a rickety aircraft, Garrett finds herself forced to take the ride in the worst seat possible, the bottom glass turret located on the belly of the plane. Soon after, strange things begin to happen on this aircraft and Garrett?s position on the plane forces her to come face to face with a mysterious, unexpected passenger. 

Set in the 1940s, this was a time filled with sexism and toxic masculinity. Though she?s an incredibly accomplished and well-trained soldier, Garrett remains at the very bottom of the social ladder due to her gender. Symbolic of the social hierarchy of men and women of the 1940s, Garrett is forced by the men to stay down in the glass turret located in the bottom of the aircraft. Meanwhile, as she languishes in the most terrifying and cramped area of the ship, the egotistical?and less talented?men undeservingly get to relax in the comfort of the cabin area. Even so, Garrett bites her tongue and, as the film progresses, she helps fight off enemy fighter jets and, yes, even gremlins, in order to save the same men who were belittling her initially. (Incidentally, it?s worth noting that the ?gremlin? was an imaginary scapegoat in the 1940s for pilots to blame if they ever made a mistake while flying.) In doing so, Garrett?s bravery symbolically takes her from the bottom of the plane to its highest position, the pilot?s cockpit. 

One of the most unexpected and spuriously badass scenes of the movie comes as Garrett is confronted with one of the gremlins. As Garrett battles the creature with her bare hands, with the supposedly brave men watching from the sidelines. In this moment, the gremlin becomes more than a beast to fight as it also represents the stupidity and sexist attitudes of the male pilots. In doing so, Cloud suggests once again that, despite the social inequalities set into place by our culture, women continue to show strength and perseverance.

Writer/director Roseanne Liang does a great job in utilizing Moretz in the lead role. Personally, I think that Shadow in the Cloud is an excellent example of how directors can create strong female roles in other action movies. As Garrett, star Chloe Grace Moretz oozes confidence as a strong, independent women in this film. Often times, I have found that female-driven action films and tv series include moments that focus too much on addressing its agenda through poor writing. (I?m looking at you, CW?) In doing so, while well meaning, these moments try too hard to prove why women are equal to or better than men. By directing attention to the issue in this way, this style of writing can undermine their agenda by emphasizing differences over gender equality, despite their well-meaning intent. In doing so, these moments can unintentionally create a gender gap where women are required to ?step it up?. However, in Shadow in the Cloud, Moretz isn?t trying to prove anything to the sexist men or constantly trying to validate why she is strong like them. She simply is. Through her actions, perseverance, flight abilities, combat skills, and ingenuity, Garrett embodies female strength and courage in a way that inspires. 

Shadow in the Cloud is an adventure that will thrill you and surprise with its twists and turns. Personally, I never expected to see Chloe Grace Moretz in such a serious and empowering role as she sets an example for all female action heroes going forward. I highly recommend it.

Shadow in the Cloud is currently streaming at Bell Digital Cinema at the Toronto International Film Festival.

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