In the Shadow of the Moon
Written by Gregory Weidman and Geoffrey Tock
Directed by Jim Mickle
In the Shadow of the Moon is a fun little time travel murder mystery that gets too convoluted for its own good. In 1988, three seemingly random people drop dead, blood and their brains leaking out of their face. Officer Locke (Boyd Holbrook) manages to insert himself into the case as part of his bid to make detective. His partner Maddox (Bokeem Woodbine) is less enthused about the extra work, and brother-in-law and current detective Holt (Michael C. Hall) doesn’t want his sister’s husband messing up his first big case. Soon it is evident the dead have all been attacked, and a mysterious woman (Cleopatra Coleman) is responsible. After a chase she winds up dead, but who she is or how she ended up with a police service revolver bullet in her hand despite no officer shooting that night remains a mystery.
The only problem is she shows up again 9 years later alive and killing again, and will keep reappearing as an increasingly obsessed and isolated Locke attempts to solve the mystery of who she’s killing and how she’s doing it. Things are best when we don’t know anything and are caught up in what is going on. There is a clue in the very beginning, but it becomes obvious really fast what is going on and why, and once you figure that out all the rest of the twists unravel in your mind and it just becomes a waiting game for them to happen on screen.
Speaking of mysterious deaths, the writers just go and fridge Locke’s wife by having her die in childbirth, which he misses part of due to the time traveling killer. Locke’s estrangement from his family as the years go on mean we drop most of the supporting cast that hasn’t died by other means, forcing Boyd Holbrook to largely carry things on his own. While he isn’t bad, sometimes it good to have more people to interact with for a film instead of it just being a succession of things that happen to Locke.
As an aside, I have no idea what kind of accent Michael C. Hall was trying to do, it is all over the map and never approaches Philadelphia, the city where the film takes place. Maybe he was also a secret time traveler, going on adventures for so long he adopted the local language and then struggles to return back to English upon his homecoming. Finally we got a real ending to Dexter, and I don’t think it is cheap at all to use this easy joke, so there!
As the film continues on, the eventual twists become more predictable to the point of the film explicitly explaining them in voiceover narration in case you weren’t paying attention. While that is interesting, it’s not exactly the best way to convey things in a visual medium. Add that to the weird extra mile the time traveler goes to kill the targets and characters outside of Locke just not caring that weird stuff is going on, and it seems like a bunch of ideas that needed another draft to tighten it all up. In the first segment there is an older police higher-up who seems to know things are weird, but he never returns even when the actual weird stuff starts happening 9 years later. There is abortive attempts to tie in police murders of black suspects (the lady doing the time travel is black, Locke is white) but that goes away after one time period, and we spend all of that time period following the cop who killed the black lady, so, yeah. Okay.
The time travel is explained a bit but they never really get into a lot of the time travel rules beyond some things involving the phasing of the moon. We don’t even get an Avengers: Endgame-style easy explanation for how things work, I can’t even be sure that it is following the rules set forth by that movie or if the woman doesn’t time travel even in the alternate future things will revert back or not.
In the Shadow of the Moon is a Netflix film and fills a good role of a nice little scifi B movie, but one of the good things of a mystery is the mystery, and In the Shadow of the Moon is just too eager to solve that for us, damn the consequences, full moon time travel ahead! It’s good enough to not discourage the curious from watching, but not quite good enough to recommend to people. And I so wanted to, the concept is great, but the execution is just flawed enough to break the loop. Strictly for the genre lovers.
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