From here, “Shadow in the Cloud” slowly builds, at first like a theater piece about a woman surrounded by harassment, removed from the possibility of being able to physically stand up to them. Along with their crude comments, the men on board question her credibility and mission, though one voice from a guy named Quaid (Taylor John Smith) stands up for her against the others. This first act mostly depicts Moretz inside the turret, and it’s with credit to her performance but also the film’s depiction of the claustrophobic space that the passage doesn’t feel inert; sometimes, you even have to remind yourself that you haven’t been seeing the men as much as you think. Though Liang cheats in a couple of instances to show what’s going on above (with stagey, dream-like imagery of red and green light), it’s a strong case of the scenario and precise dialogue letting our imagination fill in the blanks, and making us fitfully disgusted.
Garrett is in for the ride of her life in “Shadow in the Cloud,” especially when gremlins start to beat up the plane, trying to get inside her turret. The men above think she’s delusional. She fires the gun that she brought on board, and that makes the men even more afraid of the woman in their flying boys club. As they press for information, we come to learn more about what’s in the box, and what she’s been lying about. But “Shadow in the Cloud” has more chaos to get to, and soon enough Liang’s camera is dangling outside the plane, and so is Garrett. Meanwhile it’s the men who are hopelessly useless, unorganized, and primed to catch a bullet in the gut.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that this script (from Liang and co-writer Max Landis) is essentially a collection of storytelling gears, and it also wouldn’t be a stretch to point out how much this script does not conceal its awkward shape. From the beginning when Moretz is trapped in the turret, having to fend off objectification and fighting to be taken seriously, the script is mostly concerned with making sure you can relate to her experience, and that you care about the mysteries that are and are not methodically revealed. So if it’s not the sexism that gets you, it’s the impending threat of Japanese enemy fighter planes, or the snarling creatures that look like skinless, winged cats ripping up the plane as if it were a nice couch. These three obstacles that Garrett faces don’t entirely fit together, but the film is more amusing if you just accept them all.