Netflix's In the Shadow of the Moon Review
Netflix secures a flawed but engaging gem with this mystery thriller starring Boyd "The Predator" Holbrook, directed by Jim "Cold in July" Mickle, which gives an ostensibly serial killer crime story a distinctly Twelve Monkeys vibe.Still searching for quality programming, In the Shadow of the Moon sets a wonderfully authentic - and filmic - tone from the outset, setting it apart from its Netflix peers often primarily visually, as it feels like it was actually (for once) made for a theatrical release, rather than just polished in that quintessential Netflix-trademark sheen. Undoubtedly this is largely thanks to Mickle, whose unpredictable crime story Cold in July put a wonderful spin on a traditional revenge thriller, bringing similar unpredictability to bear here, albeit wielding a much more ostentatious high concept premise - something which ultimately leaves it somewhat flawed despite being something of a welcome gem nonetheless.
A well put-together mystery thriller whose journey is ultimately more interesting than its destinationThe story sees a serial killer striking every nine years, plaguing a young cop who is certain that the case is closed, only to find that - nine years later - a copycat is in town whose crimes reveal knowledge that only the original killer would have had. Increasingly obsessed with finding the truth about this odd 'repeat' offender, he's approached by a theorist who believes that something wildly improbable might be happening - with a bridge to another world, and another time, opening every nine years with the blood moon, and unleashing a curious kind of hell.
The biggest problem with this kind of high concept idea is that the reveal seldom has a chance in hell of living up to the potential suggested by the premise. It's what killed the heady all-star mystery thriller Serenity, and it ultimately sends this one off track too, somewhat, trying its best to explain the inexplicable and, in doing so, almost devaluing the power of that initial mystery.
Indeed, the first act of In the Shadow of the Moon is superbly effective, brimming with tension as it explores a series of seemingly unconnected but universally horrific murders and - eventually - has the cops seemingly successfully track the suspect behind them. The first twist comes early here, informing that high concept premise, and peddling that welcome Twelve Monkeys vibe (which, to be honest, is palpable right from the outset). The passage of time, and damage that follows is well chronicled in the second act, with every nine-year recurrence triggering a combination of disbelief and seeming paranoia, coupled with a tense chase to capture this unique murderer. But eventually it becomes glaringly obvious that they're not really going to be able to find a satisfactory way to tie this all together in a neat little bow, leaving an oftentimes gripping ride bookended by a somewhat unsatisfactory conclusion. It's still solid storytelling, and keeps you on your toes for the duration, but it needed a better resolution to bring home the instead unfulfilled potential of the premise.
Somewhat flawed despite being something of a welcome gem nonetheless
Thankfully, however much the weaponised disaster of The Predator might still be haunting you, Boyd Holbrook is on solid form here, gifted some competent ageing/de-ageing work, a decent enough set-up with Rachel "Legion" Keller's pregnant wife, and a solid partner in Bokeem Woodbine (Fargo, Spider-Man: Homecoming), even if Michael C. Hall (Dexter, also from Mickle's Cold in July) appears content just to appear at the end of every tense scene and shout his name a few times. And Cleopatra Coleman is also well chosen as the would-be serial killer, although her casting betrays the mystery somewhat, as she never quite convinces as a random, vicious, murderer - particularly once you've seen and heard her up close.
In Dolby Vision 4K with Dolby Atmos, In the Shadow of the Moon certainly looks and sounds impressive and, as stated, it welcomely eschews standard Netflix formatting in favour of a more filmic look that only leaves the subtle HDR flourishes all the more impressive. Mickle has done well to keep his programming authentic, and the result is a well put together mystery thriller that's worth checking out, even if the journey is ultimately more interesting than its destination.
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