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Film / Shadow in the Cloud

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Every mission has its demons.

Shadow in the Cloud is a 2021 American/New Zealand period horror action film, starring Chloë Grace Moretz, written and directed by Roseanne Liang from a treatment by Max Landis, and produced by the New Zealand Film Commission. It co-stars Nick Robinson and Callan Mulvey.

Maude Garrett (Moretz), a British Flight Officer stationed in New Zealand during WWII, is assigned to the B-17 Flying Fortress Fool's Errand at the last minute before it takes off on a long-range supply mission. Maude is carrying a classified box for delivery, and just needs the plane to carry her on its way. However the crew is skeptical about a woman being assigned such duties at all, and during the flight she begins to notice a strange creature crawling on the wing of the plane as mysterious malfunctions crop up.

When questions about her own mission begin to arise, she must deal with a hostile crew in addition to attacks by Japanese air forces and a literal gremlin trying to tear the plane apart around them.


Tropes in this film include:

  • Accent Relapse: After Maude's English accent disappears during the first Japanese attack she switches to an American accent for the rest of the film.
  • Accent Slip-Up: Maude's American accent emerges when they come under attack by Japanese planes and she needs to engage. The other crew notice one by one afterwards, and call her out on the change.
  • Ace Pilot: Maude is one, to the incredulity of the sexist crew.
  • Action Mom: It is revealed that the package Maude is transporting is actually her infant child.
  • The Alleged Car: The Fool's +Errand is a badly battered B-17 bomber pressed into service for an emergency supply run. The ball turret that Maude is placed in for takeoff is cracked and broken even before the gremlin starts tearing it apart.
  • Anyone Can Die: Only three of the plane's seven original crew survive, plus Maude and her child.
  • Artistic License – Biology: because babies and injuries are more complex than that.
    • The baby is none worse for wear after suffering altitude change on a plane, plus being thrown around and hanging outside the said plane, coupled with the medicine that was given to the infant before flight. There's a reason babies are not allowed to fly at that age: Maude must have been that desperate to flee.
    • Lactation does not work that way: over 6+ hours in flight, Maude would be lactating the whole time, which would be complicated to hide; infants must be breastfed at regular intervals for both this reason and their health. She does feed the baby at the earliest convenience, but it would be much less comfortable than it's shown. And that's not getting into how quiet the baby is given that he didn't eat for so long; must have been one hell of a sedative.
    • Bordering with Major Injury Underreaction: for someone with a broken (or at the very least dislocated) finger plus lacerations, Maude sure uses her hand very freely.
  • Artistic License – History: plus Artistic License – Military on so many levels.
    • Exchange programs were a thing, but not a common one. Foreign Allied personnel on a bomber would almost always fly as observers, since a multi-engine heavy bomber is a highly complex machine that requires a highly-trained specialist crew. That being said, the RAF operated a small number of B-17s, so there were a few British personnel checked out in the Flying Fortress. In any case, the multinational crew is at best highly improbable.
    • While Maude could have been trained in actual flight during the time period shown (and many female pilots in the WASP program were checked out in the B-17, as they were usually the ones who delivered the planes from the factory to operational bases), women served there in non-combat roles and operations only, and were definitely not allowed to learn how to shoot from a turret. Ordering her to man that turret, even outside combat, would be illegal.
      • While B-17s, when not on bombing missions, were often tasked with odd jobs like hauling cargo and/or passengers, those passengers would be instructed to stay in the radio room, which was both the roomiest part of the plane and the safest place to be in the event of a crash (directly behind the main wing spars). They would not be assigned to man a gun position, especially not the ball turret, which required extensive training to operate.
    • Moreover, it's the commander who allows his pilots to be distracted by dirty talk during a mission we are talking about.
    • Her explanation of a husband coming to an air force base and meeting her against her will, while dramatic, is at best unbelievable; there is no way a civilian (or a soldier from another base) could, at the time of war, just enter a military installation unhindered, meet up with an officer who didn't consent to it, be left alone with them and then, after assaulting them, leave without repercussions, no matter how related the two were.
    • Maude mentions that she has over 200 hours of flight experience over the Pacific, where her corps did not fly in WWII. Were the crew not busy laughing at her, they'd probably recognize sooner that she's not who she introduced herself as.
  • Artistic License – Physics: one would be forgiven to think most of it is Maude's hallucinations due to lack of oxygen.
    • At one point, Maude is thrown from the plane, landing on top of an exploding enemy fighter. The explosion promptly blows her back into her original plane, and she seems no worse for wear.
    • A plane that goes at minimum possible speed of 400 kmph still allows a weakened, wounded woman to climb its wing in flight. Upside down. With open eyes, no suffocation and without being blown away. With one hand. And then climb back.
    • Covering a hole in the plane hull with a simple piece of cloth would be next to impossible because of the pressure difference inside and outside the plane.
  • Behind the Black: Since the entire film focuses on Maude and her experience, if she doesn't see something, the audience doesn't see it. At the ending, she doesn't see the gremlin approaching because she is so focused on Quaid's proposal, so the first clue that it's there is when Quaid is knocked off his feet.
  • The Bro Code: The crew spend the time after Maude first comes aboard making crude, sexist comments amongst themselves. Once it is revealed that she and Quaid used to be in a relationship they taper off, with one crewmembers even explicitly saying that they never would have said all those things if they knew, but this is also about the time when things start getting deadly and the jokes stop in general.
  • Call a Pegasus a "Hippogriff": The gremlin looks more like a chupacabra or even an incubus, and has no mechanical skills expected of the species.
  • Cassandra Truth: Maude is the first person on the plane to see the gremlin, and originally reports it as a moving shape on the wing. That is dismissed by the rest of the crew, and when she is attacked by the gremlin she doesn't report it as such since she knows it won't be believed either. Instead she reports seeing an animal of some kind. This is dismissed as hysteria, at least until other members of the flight crew also report seeing this "animal".
  • Closed Circle: The film takes place on a lone B-17 bomber on a long-range supply mission. There is no way to leave the plane, and nobody to call for reinforcements. Maude spends a significant part of the movie stuck inside a gun turret.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Maude just so happens to make her escape in a plane where the father of her child is a member of the crew.
  • Cool Plane: Beat-up or not, a B-17 is still one of the coolest of all time.
  • Death by Racism: Finch dies immediately after insulting Williams, the Maori co-pilot.
  • Delivery Guy Infiltration: Maude manages to con her way aboard the Fool's Errand by forging orders that she is escorting a secret package.
  • Determinator: One of Maude's lines which was used in the trailer is "You have no idea how far I'll go." And she means it.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: At the end of the film, the gremlin attempts to steal Maude's baby again. An enraged Maude chases the gremlin, catches it by the tail, beats the everloving snot out of it, and finally rips its throat out. See also Mama Bear.
  • Domestic Abuse: Maude's husband drinks and beats her. She is fleeing on the plane for fear that he will kill her and orphan her child.
  • Fingore: At one point Maude is forced to keep the Sperry hatch shut with her finger, breaking it.
  • First-Person Perspective: The entire film focuses on Maude and her experience. The camera never leaves her, so if she doesn't see it, the audience doesn't see it. There are a few imagine spots scattered throughout the film as she thinks about what is happening elsewhere, but they’re very brief and at least one of them is flat-out wrong, so they really are only her imagination.
  • Griping About Gremlins: The movie opens with an animated safety video in the style of WWII warning about the dangers of lax safety, and the problem of blaming your mistakes on gremlins. The concept is explicitly discussed by the crew of the plane, with Captain Reeves pointing out that blaming a gremlin for problems is just a way of avoiding the consequences of your own actions. Nobody is quite prepared for a real gremlin to show up and start tearing apart the plane.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Just when they are warming up to and respecting Maude as a fellow comrade, the formerly sexist crew mates all bites it.
  • Hope Spot: Maude knocks the gremlin out the bomb bay doors after cutting off one of its fingers about 3/4ths of the way through the movie. It promptly turns out that the creature has wings and it flies back to the plane.
  • Imagine Spot: There are several quick sequences throughout the film of Maude imagining what is happening elsewhere on the plane out of her view. Most of them are mundane and reasonably accurate, but at least one of them is flat-out wrong.
  • Impersonating an Officer: Maude is an American posing as an auxiliary officer in the RAF.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Despite all the throwing, shaking, and exposure the baby is exposed to, there isn't a single scratch at the end of the movie.
  • Improperly Paranoid: After the gremlin's activities have been noticed by several members of the crew, and with mounting contradictions in Maude's behavior, several of the crew think she is carrying some sort of mind control device or other source of their problems in her classified package. It is actually her infant child, and she has no connection to the gremlin.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Captain Reeves decides to scrub the mission and return to base after Maude is exposed as a fraud and the gremlin has caused significant damage throughout the plane.
  • Mama Bear: The gremlin learns the hard and painful way why stealing someone's kid is a bad idea.
  • My Secret Pregnancy: Maude didn't tell Quaid that she was pregnant.
  • Nose Art: The Fool's Errand has a beautiful woman Riding the Bomb painted on its side.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Much of the movie is focused solely on Maude in the turret, so everything else is heard rather than seen. Most notable is when the gremlin attacks Quaid while Maude only hears his screams.
  • Obfuscating Disability: Maude starts the film with her arm in a sling, but she is not actually wounded. She is using the sling to secretly carry a revolver.
  • Outside-Context Problem: The Fool's Errand is being sent on a long-range supply mission with critical supplies, with Maude attached at the last minute carrying an important box. Nobody thought a literal gremlin would start tearing apart the plane during flight.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Given the behavior of the rest of his crew, Captain Reeves acting as a professional makes him this.
  • Rejected Marriage Proposal: At the very end of the film Quaid gets down on one knee to propose to Maude. She never gets around to saying "no" since the gremlin interrupts, but she shakes her head the entire time he's speaking.
  • Riding the Bomb: The Fool's Errand has a beautiful woman riding the bomb painted on its side.
  • Secret Relationship: Two, both involving the same character.
    • Maude didn't tell Quaid that she was already married when they started a relationship. When he learned the truth he left her.
    • Maude and Quaid used to be lovers, which none of the other crew know about.
  • Shown Their Work: There were in fact female pilots serving who volunteered in the British forces during the second World War. They served in the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA). The film ends showing real footage from training films of women who served in the war.
  • Stay in the Kitchen. All of Maude's copilots start off with this attitude, outright dismissing the idea that she could be a pilot as ludicrous.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: We don't know why the gremlin is destroying the plane in general, but it seems specifically focused on Maude's baby. Even when it is otherwise undetected and can escape it continues this one specific hunt.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: Maude cheated on her husband with Quaid, and had a baby by him, but she remains sympathetic since he was abusive.
  • Taking the Kids: Maude is literally smuggling her infant son away from her alcoholic, abusive husband.
  • Token Minority: Williams, the Maori pilot who stands out in the otherwise all-White crew.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: The crew who were Stay in the Kitchen towards Maude then started to respect her just before their deaths.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer shows that the plane crashes and Maude fights the gremlin in the ocean afterward. If you pay close enough attention, it also shows exactly which crew members are still alive after the crash. Finally, one of Maude's more impressive near-death experiences (falling out the bomb bay doors but being blown back in by the force of an explosion) is shown.
  • Underestimating Badassery: The crew of the Fool's Errand are all dismissive of Maude's skills, even though she points out that the women in the auxiliary are trained to fly and fight. Just because they are not officially assigned to combat duties doesn't mean they're not soldiers.
  • Violent Glaswegian: Taggart, the Scottish member of the crew, is the most hostile to Maude.
  • Wartime Cartoon: The movie opens with a safety video warning about the dangers of lax safety standards, and the problem of blaming your mistakes on gremlins.
  • Weird Historical War: During American flight operations in the Pacific Theater of WWII, an actual gremlin is tearing apart a plane during flight.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The film is a period-action version of the classic Richard Matheson story and The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "Nightmare At 20,000 Feet".