In the Shadow of the Moon (2019)

In the Shadow of the Moon
Director: Jim Mickle
Writer: Gregory Weidman, Geoffrey Tock
Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Cleopatra Coleman, Bokeem Woodbine, Michael C. Hall, Rudi Dharmalingam, Al Maini, Quincy Kirkwood, Sarah Dugdale
Seen on: 10.4.2022

Locke (Boys Holbrook) is a police officer hoping for a big career move. When a mysterious killing spree hits Philadelphia, he connects the dots and traces the bodies and their unusual way of dying to a mysterious woman in a hoodie (Cleopatra Coleman). This realization is only the start of decades of obsession for Locke – and the end of his life as he knew it.

In the Shadow of the Moon has a couple of interesting ideas, but it didn’t quite win me over. I think that’s because it chose the – to me – wrong angle to tell its story.

The film poster showing half of Locke's (Boyd Holbrook) face. Superimposed over his shoulder is a street at night, a giant moon in the background, and Rya (Cleopatra Coleman) wearing a hoodie and holding a strang weapon in the front.

In the Shadow of the Moon is an interesting take on the question of whether you can kill an idea because it doesn’t pretend that ideas exist only in one person’s head. I’d say it doesn’t go far enough with that line of thinking. For example, you couldn’t kill racism by killing all racists because a) structures are racist and b) you’d probably have to kill everyone as we’ve all internalized racism. In this film, it’s pretty clear that it’s not enough to kill, say, Hitler (the film is not about killing Hitler), but if you killed enough of the people around him, too, you’d maybe at least stop World War II. A worthy goal, but I would have liked a final acknowledgment that this doesn’t mean that fascism is over and done with.

Still, that part of the film works pretty well. Others do not. For one, the way the people are killed here doesn’t make much sense to me. Why not just stab or shoot them? Why do we need the overly complicated SciFi stuff for the killings themselves? But that is just a nitpick compared to the film’s real problem: that it is told through the eyes of Locke.

Locke (Boyd Holbrook) holding up a printout of surveillance footage that shows a hooded figure in a subway station.

Imagine the film as told from Rya’s perspective, and you’d have a really interesting take. Instead we get treated to yet another lone wolf cop movie starring an unremarkable white dude who is obsessive, right about everything, but disbelieved. I mean, how many films like this have we seen already? I’m pretty sure it’s too many to count.

The final reveal that kind of justifies that his perspective takes center stage is also both predictable and not very insightful. More could have been made of the concept and the film if it had taken a narrative approach that was a little more innovative.

Rya (Cleopatra Coleman) in a hoodie, her hands holded behind her head.

Summarizing: meh.

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