Usually, a movie about a cop becoming obsessed with a serial killer is a recipe for an entertaining thriller. But in the case of Netflix’s new science fiction thriller, In the Shadow of the Moon, it’s just doesn’t work.
When you take what would have been a solid thriller and then decided to craft a science fiction thriller, it creates a film so unwieldy and overly complicated that you’re guaranteed to come out of watching this film in some form of unsatisfied confusion. The only saving grace In the Shadow of the Moon is the fact that this cast is great at what they do.
The story starts in 1988 Philadelphia with a beat cop, Thomas Lockhart, played by Boyd Holbrook, gets called to cover the scene of a bus crash. Lockhart’s ambitions of being promoted to detective get the better of him and he inserts himself into the investigation, discovering the body at the scene of the crime is linked to two other deaths that night, all suddenly bled out in a matter of minutes. Due to chance, and a fast-acting police force, Lockhart is on the trail of a young female killer.
Everything about this story had the potential to become the kind of taut psychological thriller that Netlfix loves. But from the point, the police in 1988 go after the female killer the script races full ahead with a narrative that crosses from thriller to science fiction without giving up the fast tempo that director Jim Mickle quite adeptly sets up without ever once explaining anything until the third act.
Possibly the most frustrating part of this film is the fact that it can be so unexpected at times while being so wholly stereotypical at the same time. You can see what the writers of this film, Gregory Weidman and Geoffrey Tock were going for in this script. But very clear intentions were hidden underneath cliche after cliche. Mickle does a decent job of giving the film a unique look as we travel through this narrative. The first 1080’s-set act has an especially pleasing look to it that I loved. But the only thing that I can truly give any credit to Mickle for is this film would be absolutely nothing without the cast that it has.
And that’s the second most frustrating part of this film is that the more I watched this film, the more obsessive that Boyd Holbrook got, the more entertained I was. Michael C. Hall’s role as Lockhart’s brother-in-law plays off so well against Boyd putting everything he has into Lockhart’s obsession. Cleopatra Coleman’s Rya is passionate and calculating and a fantastic juxtaposition to Holbrook’s performance of Lockhart’s obsession over her.
The entire story depends on if Mickle and Holbrook can keep you engaged in Lockhart’s obsession for the entire story to be explained in the third act and the problem is as good as this cast is, this story still doesn’t have enough to get you to that third act. In the end, In the Shadow of the Moon is ambitious. They managed to do a lot with the limitations that they had and this cast pulls out the stops to make this film worth three out of five stars for being that ambitious.
But ultimately, Netflix has dozens of films that executed the same idea In the Shadow of the Moon was going for, just far better than this film did, 3 out of 5 stars.