"Shadow in the Cloud," an action-packed horror thriller out New Year's Day, aims high, according to critics. But does it stick the landing?
With a 78% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, director Roseanne Liang's film stars Chloe Grace Moretz as Maude Garrett, a British flight officer traveling aboard a bomber with a top-secret package. Throughout the World War II-era film, Moretz's Maude weathers misogynistic insults, Axis enemies and a monster inspired by old-school airman superstitions.
Though critics have offered wide-ranging takes on the film, almost all agree that "Shadow," for better or worse, pushes the bounds of what's believable.
USA TODAY film critic Brian Truitt called "Shadow" a "proudly pulpy midnight movie," recommending it in his holiday movie streaming guide and ranking it No. 15 out of the 22 best films he saw at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Indie Wire's Kate Erbland wrote that the premise "sounds a bit like a Hollywood pitch meeting gone seriously off the rails."
"Part creature feature, part war-is-hell nightmare, and entirely dedicated to cutting down the misogynist jerks who populate it, there’s enough giddy fun to power 'Shadow in the Cloud' through just about anything," she added.
Despite its wacky premise, Variety's Peter Debruge called the film "insanely entertaining."
"Hardly a minute of the movie registers as 'realistic,' but that hardly matters, since Liang so fully commits to its over-the-top sensibility that you’ll be clutching the armrest and grinning with glee for most of the ride," he wrote.
Other critics, however, found "Shadow" too off-the-rails to enjoy.
According to Pajiba's Kristy Puchko, the movie starts off fun but becomes "deeply, deeply dumb." She also took issue with the end credits, which showed archival images of real female soldiers from WWII.
"Considering the screenwriters felt the best way to tell a story about such a woman was to throw in buckets of insults, a mythical creature, moronic plot twists and abrupt superpowers, this 'tribute' comes off as comically tone-deaf," Puchko wrote. "But, hey, at least by that point it’s over. That’s something."
Despite different takes on the film's believability, critics seem to agree Moretz is a big draw. Bill Goodykoontz wrote for The Arizona Republic, part of the USA TODAY Network, that Moretz's truthful acting keeps the high-flying film grounded.
"She can't make the stupid sublime, but in 'Shadow in the Cloud' she at least makes it something worth sticking around for," he noted.
In a review for Daily Grindhouse, Jourdain Searles praised Moretz for giving "the performance of her career."
"Moretz is incredible as Maude, using vulnerability as her greatest weapon," Searles wrote. "Her power onscreen is so undeniable that it’s hard to even notice the men around her."
For The Hollywood Reporter's John DeFore, "Shadow" is a film best enjoyed by surrendering to its absurdity.
"Any pulp-loving genre fan who can accept completely absurd action in the name of a good time should probably just stop reading now and add 'Shadow' to the must-see list," he wrote. "This ride is much more fun when you know nothing about it going in."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Shadow in the Cloud': Critics split on Chloe Grace Moretz's pulp film