In the Shadow of the Moon had a lot of potential. It has a talented cast, a promising director, and an intriguing premise. However, it does nothing of any substance with any of those elements during its runtime, resulting in a passively entertaining but ultimately hollow experience.
Jim Mickle, director of the criminally underrated Cold in July, takes the helm for this Netflix sci-fi crime drama. However, where that movie was a very measured slow-burn, this movie is a fairly choppy mixed bag of character work and action sequences. The film is guided competently enough, but never really finds a rhythm or any real sense of pacing. The result is a steady but frequently unsatisfying journey through one man’s life.
In the Shadow of the Moon follows Locke (Boyd Holbrook), a police officer who becomes obsessed with a serial killer (Cleopatra Coleman) that seems to be a time traveler who only appears every nine years. This is a really interesting premise, but the film never really decides what to do with it. It doesn’t spend long enough in any time period to develop a sense of place or urgency and is not helped by the fact that it seems to be trying to fit the plot of every movie ever made into one. Seriously, this movie has plot beats borrowed from every movie of the last 20 years. It makes for a familiar and entertaining watch, and while it does stick the landing it never feels satisfying in any meaningful way.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Boyd Holbrook takes the lead as Detective Locke over the course of almost 40 years, and he’s up to the task for the most part. He has a strong presence and is convincing as a police officer who has lost everything, making for a compelling enough protagonist. Opposite him is Cleopatra Coleman as Rya, a time traveling killer with mysterious intentions. She does just fine with what little she’s given, but her character is terribly one note. Elsewhere, Michael C. Hall plays Holt, Locke’s by the book brother-in-law, who also happens to be a police officer. It’s a small role, but Hall brings his usually strong presence whenever he is on screen. You can’t help but wish he was in more films.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The sound design in this film is fine, with gunshots and the sounds of Philadelphia alike coming across convincingly. However, it features an incredibly uninspired and forgettable score, which neither hurts or elevates any scenes. Its presence leaves you feeling completely indifferent.
This movie is full of obvious CGI and lazy makeup work that really works against any sense of time and place that is trying to be established. Cityscapes in flash-forward sequences look completely unconvincing, but more distracting is the makeup and hair work on Boyd Holbrook’s character as the year goes on. No matter what wig they put on him, he never looks any older, and it really undercuts some important moments.
I was very much looking forward to Mickle’s next feature film after Cold in July and In the Shadow of the Moon had moments of genuine excitement and promise. However, it spends most of its time focused on the least interesting details of the plot, as well as trying to do too much overall. The result, unfortunately, is a film that feels too busy but also is too hollow and serves as one of the year’s many disappointments. Holbrook and Hall deserve better.