“IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON” is a science-fiction crime mystery directed by Jim Mickle coming soon to Netflix. Boyd Holbrook (Predator), Cleopatra Coleman (Step Up Revolution), Bokeem Woodbine (Overlord), and Michael C. Hall (Dexter) fill out the cast. The plot in this one was emotionally adventurous and interesting. It centers on this police officer from Philly named Locke played by Holbrook who is trying to track down a serial-killer who is committing crimes that simply cannot be explained. This obsession will span over decades of Locke’s life as he relentlessly seeks answers, while his relationships and family virtually crumble around him.
Recent years have been up and down for Netflix in the area of their ‘Original Films’. Unlike a lot of the series releases, the films haven’t always gotten a majority of praise from critics. This trend in my opinion however has been skewing to the side of the positive with titles such as “The Highwaymen”, “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind”, and “Always Be My Maybe” among others, that I feel are solid, entertaining films. “In the Shadow of the Moon” is an ambitious movie. It builds heavy underlying elements of science-fiction and weaves in tones of a crime-drama with strong layers of mystery. And I must the say the result was a success.
I had a great time watching this one. I won’t go into spoilers, but this was a story-line that wove its mystery with a tight structure that made it all feel cohesive. This was a genuinely unpredictable plot-line and while it wasn’t perfect, it was still compelling. It had me thinking. It had my curiosity peaked as to where things were going, and the engagement level made the run-time feel relatively swift. It isn’t easy to come out with something that doesn’t feel derivative and this script in terms of its plot, I felt accomplished that. It’s a blend of genres with appealing characters and despite the flow of some relationship dynamics feeling routine. The situations and scenarios wrapped around them do not, so it still has that investment level. We have seen the main character struggle to find the answers or resolution to something that has caused the rest of their life to fall apart. But that familiar downward spiral is still interesting to see when fitted into these story-layers. I was curious throughout as Locke searched for answers because I genuinely wanted those answers as well.
The layering of information does have a steady delivery and it helps maintain consistent intrigue. The story is told over several years, spanning from the 1980’s to the 2020’s but it does have a steady forward progression. There isn’t a lot of back-and-forth. It sets the stage, then goes back and from there lays out the story in time-period sections. I think this was able to make the story-line more engaging and easy to follow along with. Without a lot of jumping around the main plot and the affects in had on the main character was allowed to be the focus. And with continual development of the story-arcs it was surprisingly compelling.
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This is where I felt the lead performance from Holbrook was able to shine. He was fantastic in this movie. Like I said, the decent his character goes through in this story has been seen before. But the effort from Holbrook still is able to give it some emotional impact. Holbrook just feels like a common guy and he doesn’t force any of the cop tropes in the role. So, for me it was naturally easy to invest in the character. There’s a constant determination to him that must find answers which made him blind to everything else around him, and it was sincere coming from Holbrook. Which I felt made him a great lead that was successfully able to carry this movie on his shoulders.
Michael C. Hall and Bokeem Woodbine were both solid as well and, in my opinion, they were able to make the most out of generic character types with their screen presence alone. They certainly elevated the material. They gave the narrative a couple of characters with their own tone of personality that allowed for some subtle but grounded moments between them. That brought a nice down-to-earth charm to the movie when needed. And Cleopatra Coleman was fantastic as well with an inspired performance that resulted in a few lasting scenes. She embodied her role perfectly and just brought an energy to the movie when she was onscreen.
Visually I think the direction from Jim Mickle and cinematography from David Lanzenberg was perfect for the needs of this story. There were moments that felt like a grittier crime-drama as Holbrook’s character Locke searches for answers. Then there were segments that felt like a cold, mildly futuristic science-fiction world. But the tone was consistent because the visual appeal of the film creates an overlying atmosphere. The camerawork was large in scope and equally small in scale at times and despite a ton of style, the subtly of it all was enjoyable and immersive. There was also a nice collection of action to bring the energy up that were well-crafted. A few fight scenes, some chases-sequences, a little bit of gun-play, all worked nicely into the flow of the story to frequently raise the intensity level.
The film does have some small flaws. Like I said, Holbrook was great in his role but from the writing side it was a story-arc we have seen before. I also think that the pacing could have been tightened up. I wouldn’t necessarily go as far as to call certain scenes filler. But there were times between the meatier scenes which developed the plot, where things did slow down a little. Primarily because of the familiarity of them like Locke going to people with his theories only to have them think he’s crazy. The reach out to Locke for help when they seem him falling apart angle. Again, things that were needed to move the story but tropes that also felt routine in how they played out. But it was a still a captivating movie that had me interested from start-to-finish. It was ambitious and seemed to think a bit outside-of-the-box in creating its story-line and I always appreciate that. There were a handful of moments that had me guessing where things would go, it has some solid action, great performances and for a night at home with a movie this one is worth a shot.
IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON – OFFICIAL TRAILER