Hooking you in the first five minutes, In the Shadow of the Moon blends several genres into one potent mix. Subtly nostalgic and character-driven, this is quite an ambitious high-concept project from one Jim Mickle, the guy behind Stake Land and Cold in July. It follows a detective who becomes obsessed with a string of unsolved murders back in 1988. He dedicates himself to catching this serial killer, sacrificing everything. The atmosphere is unmistakably noir, oozing with mystery, regret, and sheer fucking determination. They nailed this gritty and grimy vibe of Philadelphia in the eighties so well that I wished the story remained there.
As I previously mentioned, In the Shadow of the Moon starts really strong, sucking you into the screen with force. However, as the story unfolds, it loses more and more momentum, ending with just a satisfying enough finale. Once you see the whole picture, it kind of loses its appeal. This, on the other hand, opens the movie up for a deeper discussion about the issues it explores. Boyd Holbrook (Steve from Narcos), was fantastic here with his brooding and pitch-perfect execution. Seamlessly transitioning from a police thriller to a science fiction movie and back, I just loved the refreshing creativity here. Again, I can’t help myself recommending The Nile Hilton Incident, a police noir mystery without science fiction elements.
It is a cold and rainy night in Philadelphia and two police officers, Locke and Maddox, just started their regular night shift. However, this night shift will prove to be like no other. All of a sudden, people at different locations in the city, seemingly unconnected will start dying in an unusual way. Locke, looking to become a detective, takes a special interest in a case, not knowing that it will change his life forever.
In the Shadow of the Moon features the concept of a deterministic universe, something we recently explored in Riders of Justice. I won’t go into details as to exactly what it’s talking about as that would be a major spoiler. However, I think they accidentally stumbled onto a couple of interesting subjects here. First of them is a very human one, obsession. You know that thing steering your focus to a single thing and disregarding so much of this rich experience we call life. I know it too well. Just one more thing, this is a crucial time for me and all the other excuses. Moreover, the illusion that when we finish with that thing we will be free. If I just get this job, this amount of money, this girlfriend or something else, everything will fall into place.
The second of them is the proof that our world is way way more fucked up than we usually think it is. Actually, let me rephrase that more than most people think. This simplistic and oddly enough deterministic way of thinking stemming from our way of life in the tribe is applied to the incredibly complex today’s society. This concrete belief that you know how things work and that nothing can persuade you from it. The idea of an idyllic small town where if you do the right things, everything will be alright. So, you can guess what political side leans towards this view and what was the backlash against this movie. Not that the left offers anything better with wishful thinking hardly applicable in the real world. Although I must admit that the values it proposes and general outlook are positive, albeit flawed.
Director: Jim Mickle
Writers: Gregory Weidman, Geoffrey Tock
Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Cleopatra Coleman, Bokeem Woodbine, Michael C. Hall, Rudi Dharmalingam, Rachel Keller
Fun Facts: The device is a modified pneumatic reciprocating saw. It’s primarily used in the auto body repair industry.