Monday With Mildred: “Shadow in the Cloud”

Shadow in the Cloud movie poster.

Shadow in the Cloud

Some times and places are endlessly fascinating, and World War II is one of the most ruthlessly mined over time. Now and then someone will create a fiction set during that time that allows for some 21st century examination of what wasn’t really a fantastic time in the world’s history, even if a lot of people would like to remember it that way. For women, it was a large tease about how things could be, as they were pressed into service of the war effort. They were often not well received by men, and were quickly herded back to their “place” afterward.

In a pouring rain on a dark night in New Zealand 1943, a woman bulls her way onto a bomber waiting on the runway for takeoff. She’s got one arm in a sling, and a mysterious case strapped over her other shoulder. A discerning viewer won’t be surprised by the reception the woman gets as she is immediately confronted and is a second away from being violently ejected by the men who can’t believe there’s a woman on board. She produces an order on letterhead from a much feared officer. They’re to fly her to their next destination, and the case is TOP SECRET. They let her stay, but make her descend into the Sperry Turret under the plane, where she’s locked in. Things get way worse from there.

Even after that opening, with her in a glass bubble on the bottom of the plane as it takes off in the rain, how the “men” on board talk about her and TO her for a good part of the movie goes way past maddening. The airmen are portrayed as rabid animals who cannot curb their overtly base opinions. This was a seriously sexist time in world history, but I have a hard time thinking that kind of unceasing abuse would be tolerated by an officer of his crew. This was one of a couple of problems I had with the writing, which was the weakest part despite a clever premise.

All the actors do a fine job with what they’re given, but they’re asked to do some enormously stupid, improbable, and completely impossible things. Some aspects of the movie are pretty good, like the premise. Relating fully what that is would be a huge spoiler, so all I’ll say is the bigger problem the men face than a dame on board is a solidly WWII kinda thing. Maude spends a lot of time in that glass bubble at 20,000 feet. It’s a really small bubble, and it’s dark in a thunderstorm at night. Constantly changing camera angles, good sound work, and a director who didn’t fall for the Too Dark To See Is Kewl fad keeps that long stretch from getting boring. After watching the whole film I decided that section is my favorite, despite the horrible stuff the guys were saying.

Events heat up and heat up, and there is a lot of action as you might expect in a war flick. You might not expect where it ends up, though, and neither did I. Especially at the very, very end of the movie, you will not see that coming if you live a thousand years. I was amazed and impressed, and I laughed so, so hard.

As action flicks starring a woman go, this movie isn’t bad. It could have been a lot better, if the writers understood basic physics and how airplanes work. They seemed to have a lot more fun than they should with the sexist world of the 1940s, and that caused my score to dip a lot lower than just action flick woes. If you think you can take the bad stuff, see this film for an interesting study on how to portray action in a seriously close and dark space, and for that killer ending that still makes me smile.


CFR: In Addition:

OMG I was so thrilled to see that Mildred had reviewed this movie. I got a huge kick out of it when I watched it. Ok, yes her critique of physics and airplanes is absolutely correct. I was disgusted by the sexism but it didn’t surprise me as much as I think it surprised Mildred. It bothered me too and I wanted to punch some dummies, but I wasn’t surprised by it. (Which is sad.)

Now for some sharing that involves * SPOILERS * so you have been warned.

River Song says "Spoilers."

I LOVED the ending! LOVED it! I love that our heroine who is also a woman and mother fighting for dignity in her life, punches the shtt out of a monster and then breastfeeds her baby! PERFECT! I liked that in the end the men that were left were the ones who could listen to and follow her.

Oh and a baby in a bag would not be that quiet but whatever. Still fun.

Thanks again, Mildred!

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