(For Day 13 of NaPoWriMo, the prompt was for a short poem “that follows the beats of a classic joke,” though mine is less of a joke and more of a taunt in need of countering.)
It used to be
If men were meant to fly,
They would have been born with wings.
It used to be
If women were meant to fly,
They wouldn’t need men for things.
Maybe let them try
Before saying who can fly.
MPA rating: R (for frequent language and some bloody violence)
What do you get when you cross Memphis Belle, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” and a gonzo female empowerment fantasy? You get Shadow in the Cloud, a high-flying action-horror-drama starring Chloe Grace Moretz as RAF Officer Maude Garrett, who boards a plane flying out of New Zealand in the midst of World War II. Insisting on the safety of a mysterious package she carries, Maude bristles at the sexist comments of the all-male flight crew and spends the first half of the film stowed in the gun turret on the plane’s underside. Yet a dangerous gremlin-like creature threatens the plane and her package, spurring her to prove just how tenacious a “hysterical” woman can be.
Shadow in the Cloud is an over-the-top treat in many regards. After an opening scene in which Maude briefly meets the surly airmen of the Fool’s Errand, the first half of the movie has a clever claustrophobia to it, trapping her in the cramped gunner’s bubble with no easy escape. Everything is from her perspective, with the personalities of the rest of the crew conveyed solely by dialogue over the radio, from racist horndogs to stubborn pilots. It’s unfortunate that, with one exception, every male character is a condescending, foul-mouthed jerk to varying degrees, but I suppose such grating scorn must have been common enough in real life to be considered such a stereotype. Here, of course, it’s the kind of extreme disrespect engineered for movie heroines to prove wrong.
Beyond the human conflict, rife with mistrust as Maude herself becomes a source of suspicion, the film takes a hard turn into creature feature action and doesn’t let up. The feats Maude pulls off in the second half, facing off against a bat-like gremlin that taunts her as it sabotages the plane, are absurd yet thrilling, and a whole dogfight sequence was ridiculous movie adrenaline in the best way. Moretz is a lovely and talented actress, and she perfectly balances the intense emotions at play. Plus, the music is right up my alley, with a synth-heavy score that ranges from ominous to frenetic and ending with Kate Bush’s “Hounds of Love” (a worthy addition to the End Credits Song Hall of Fame). Highly entertaining and bombastic even as it teeters into B-movie camp, Shadow in the Cloud strikes a strange balance between well-acted gender conflict and intense monster revenge action, while also giving a nod to the real-life women who served in the air forces during World War II. It’s an odd mix but one worth the ride.
Best line: (Maude, after asking for permission to fire at an enemy aircraft) “I was being polite!” [fires at will]
Rank: List Runner-Up
© 2023 S.G. Liput
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