REVIEW: In the Shadow of the Moon (2019)

Release Poster — Netflix

The following is a review of In the Shadow of the Moon — Directed by Jim Mickle.

Not to be confused with the David Sington documentary of the same name, Jim Mickle’s In the Shadow of the Moon is a science-fiction crime film that follows police officer Thomas Lockhart (played by Boyd Holbrook), a father in waiting, as he tries to catch a criminal whose actions have caused several civilians to display suspicious wounds and then violently die as they bleed from their heads’ orifices. The suspected murderer is a young African-American woman (played by Cleopatra Coleman), and Lockhart eventually catches up to her on the night of the murderers.

His night ends violently as he makes her fall onto subway train tracks where she is swiftly run over by an oncoming train. When the suspected murderer returns back to life nine years after she died, Lockhart starts to entertain the thought that she was literally carried away by a moonlight shadow, to quote a 1980s hit song, to a different place, or time, entirely, which was suggested to him by an elusive scientist on the night of her first appearance.

This film, a strange mash-up of two of my favorite genres, is an ambitious but frustrating misfire. Though the film may ultimately be let down by the material, Gregory Weidman and Geoff Tock’s writing is ambitious and their influences are obvious and exciting (their story has hints of films such as Se7en, The Terminator, and Looper). Their story casually throws in some thoughts on the outrage police departments may spark, but, unfortunately, the film merely alludes to this story element which would’ve made for an interesting focus.

Jim Mickle and director of photography David Lanzenberg envelop the film’s best scenes in cold and grayish tones. You may spot a blue lens flare once or twice. Jim Mickle’s film is at its best in its first hour, when it is focused on Lockhart’s attempts to solve the recurring murder case as an obsessed police officer, but, when the film then almost abandons that genre entirely to become a science-fiction film about the effects of obsession on family, the film becomes very unengaging and its dialogue becomes overly expositional. It is at this point that you are suddenly one step ahead of the main character, and later you are presented with an extremely predictable and somewhat unsatisfying conclusion.

I was also fairly disappointed by the performances. Cleopatra Coleman doesn’t get a lot to do here, and neither does Bokeem Woodbine, who plays Lockhart’s underwritten partner. Strangely, Boyd Holbrook, who here had a chance to give a memorable and emotional performance, drops the ball as Thomas Lockhart. Holbrook, who is perhaps best known for Netflix’s Narcos, gives a surprisingly drab performance in the film. And, late in the film, his performance isn’t capable of overcoming his almost comical make-up and hairstyling. Michael C. Hall, who plays Lockhart’s boss and brother-in-law, should be commended for actually trying to do something interesting with his character, but the thick accent that he has used to create his performance is a little bit too distracting.

This is a film that starts off as a pretty intriguing and thrilling crime film in the vein of David Fincher’s Se7en, but the film is then overwhelmed by its convoluted and ultimately frustratingly predictable story. The science-fiction elements also tend to derail the film. The character work and performances do the film no favors whatsoever either. It may be ambitious, but Jim Mickle’s In the Shadow of the Moon is an extremely disappointing dud.

5.5 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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