In The Shadow Of The Moon is predictable, and that’s okay
Sometimes, all you need to carry a movie is a cool premise, good casting and competent directing. In The Shadow of the Moon has all the above.
Personally, I love what Netflix and other services like it have done for movies and TV. I love having access to shows and movies from around the world, from different perspectives and an endless combination of genres. Shoutout to all the translation teams that make it possible for me to watch subtitled Polish movies, and whoever maintains the recommendation algorithms that keep pushing me to new content (please stop recommending 6 Underground, though, thanks).
In 1988, a police officer is hungry to become a detective and begins tracking a serial killer who resurfaces every nine years. But when the killer’s crimes defy all scientific explanation, the officer’s obsession threatens to destroy everything.
Watch In The Shadow Of The Moon’s (spoiler-ific) Trailer
Time travel is a lot like zombies in that we’ve seen so much of it in popular culture that there’s nothing new under the sun. It’s also like zombies in that, done right, the usual tropes and twists still hold together really well. I wasn’t expecting anything I’ve never seen before, I was just hoping to see what’s been done right before done right again, and maybe improved on.
My modest hopes and dreams were fulfilled.
Fans of science fiction, philosophy and drunken conversations in bars after midnight will be familiar with the question ‘what if you could go back in time and kill Hitler?’. It doesn’t have to be Hitler – he’s just the latest historical figure that most (I’d say all, but we unfortunately don’t live in that world) people can agree the world would have been better off without. In any case, In The Shadow Of The Moon takes the underlying question – is preemptively killing people you know will do evil things that negatively impact humanity okay? – and overlays classic time travel complications and social commentary to deliver a movie that’s as enjoyable as it is predictable.
What’s to like about this movie? Simple – politics!
Quite apart from strong performances by the entire cast, lighting which won’t make you squint, and a solid effort in keeping timelines straightforward – this movie packs a social message which is incredibly timely. The camp of people who don’t like politics with their science fiction (and I presume also don’t like water with their coffee) were none too impressed with this movie’s decidedly un-subtle message that it’s bad to hate people for not looking / being like you, and that allowing people who hate people who don’t look / behave like them to shape a society will lead to major issues for said society.
I’m in the camp of people who believe that art is political, and that genres like science fiction, especially, are inherently political.
How can you imagine a future which is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than the present and divorce the ideas of better and worse from their social, political and economic realities? How can you engage with questions of human and machine autonomy, who goes to space and why, the end of war, or war ending the world without even a cursory glance at the political inputs and ramifications? I’d argue that it’s not possible.
In The Shadow Of The Moon swims happily in the murky waters of politics and art, using a time travelling serial killer and the detective determined to catch her as its vehicles. The real appeal of this movie, for me, was not how well it dealt with the mechanics of time travel, but how well it tackled its social subject matter.
So, what’s not to like?
Not much, really.
Other than having a trailer which reveals far too much of the plot of the movie, and some questionable choices in timing of ‘big reveals’, In The Shadow Of The Moon chugs along at a good pace and has some very enjoyable action sequences. My main gripe would be that this movie could have been more. I’m not exactly sure how, but I feel in my bones that there was something which would have taken this movie from enjoyable to memorable.
Mood Rating: Add some water to your coffee, some politics to your entertainment and…