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Movie Review: “In the Shadow of the Moon”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

In the Shadow of the Moon

Netflix Release: 9/27/2019

Netflix Release: 9/27/2019

Synopsis

It is 1988, and Locke (Boyd Holbrook) is a young cop in Philadelphia. His wife is pregnant and they are expecting their baby to be born any day now. Locke, however, works the night shift, patrolling the streets of Philadelphia with his partner (Bokeem Woodbine). This night began like any other, Locke made dinner for his wife and went to work, but events will soon transpire that will change his life forever.

When three people turn up dead—all in dramatic ways—the cops quickly discover that something very strange is going on. All three victims died at approximately the same time, and all three victims have a strange mark on the back of their neck. It is clear that the three murders are connected, but it is unclear how the victims are connected, why they were killed, who killed them, and how it was done. The technology used to kill the victims is unlike anything they have ever seen before, and although they believe they got the killer, the police do not get any answers, so they reluctantly close the case. However, exactly nine years later, people start dying in the exact same way.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

The ProsThe Cons

Locke vs. Rya (+10pts)

Aging (-2pts)

Michael C. Hall (+2pts)

Locke's Obsession (-4pts)

The Ending (+4pts)

Convenient Secrets (-2pts)

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Pro: Locke vs. Rya (+10pts)

This movie went all in on the mystery behind who Rya is and where she came from. She appeared mysteriously, had technology that no one had ever seen before, and seemed to know things about Locke that she really should not have known. All of this went into the mystery of who Rya is, and led to Locke's obsession to find answers. Meanwhile, Rya is clearly on a mission, and this led to quite the feud between the two characters.

Their feud was filled with exciting action, and interesting questions. I enjoyed trying to guess how the movie would answer those questions, and was totally invested in seeing how they would be answered. The mystery and the suspenseful action made every subsequent meeting more intense than the last. I do not want to say too much more, because saying more would give some things away and this is very much a story that is better if it has not been spoiled for you. However, know that I really liked the mystery surrounding Rya, I really liked rivalry between these two characters, and really liked seeing the evolving intensity of their rivalry each time the characters met. The movie was far from perfect, but these two characters, and the relationship between them, was easily the best thing about this movie.

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Con: Aging (-2pts)

This movie covered a large portion of time. As a result, by the end of the movie the protagonists end up being a lot older than they were at the beginning. Now I do not expect every movie to have the level of aging and de-aging that movies like The Irishman had, but this movie was definitely one where the filmmakers should have given it a little more effort. Basically, their only method of aging their characters was to change the character’s hair. This meant that by the end of the movie, the protagonists have old looking hair and young looking faces, and it was so mismatched that it was almost comical (in a bad way) and ended up taking me out of the movie.

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Pro: Michael C. Hall (+2pts)

This character played a pretty minor role in this movie, but I liked the character and enjoyed the dynamic between him and Locke. Holt (Michael C. Hall) is Locke's brother-in-law, and is also a detective in Philadelphia. Locke wants to become a detective one day, so sort of steps on Holt's toes a bit. From there, I liked the relationship between the two characters. Both are trying to figure out what is going on, but Locke's drive turns into an obsession, and I enjoyed seeing how Holt reacted to that. I do not want to give this storyline away, so I will not say any more about it. However, I enjoyed seeing Holt and Locke's relationship and how it changed throughout the years that this story took place.

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Con: Locke's Obsession (-4pts)

This movie covered a large portion of Locke’s life. The return of the mysterious Rya nine years after her previous sighting meant that we got a jump in time and joined Locke nine after the first set of murders. The filmmakers clearly wanted to establish that a lot of time had passed, and one of the ways they did this was to show Locke in a very different mindset than he had been nine years earlier. Locke became obsessed with Rya‘s murders, which was fine, but the way this obsession impacted his life felt extreme and unnecessary.

The guy had nine years to prepare for the next Rya sighting. He had nine years to process what had happened the last time. It just did not make sense that his obsession would have impacted his life the way that it did. The writers clearly went in this direction to force more drama into this character’s story, but they could have done a better job of explaining it in a way that made sense for the character.

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Pro: The Ending (+4pts)

There is plenty of action in this movie to keep viewers excited, but this story is very much a mystery-thriller. Locke is desperately trying to figure out who Rya is, and is desperately trying to catch her before she kills anyone else. This ends up sending Locke down a rabbit hole in his search for answers. I liked this because it was interesting, it kept me guessing, and it kept me engaged. Then the end of the movie came, and I ended up really liking the way the filmmakers wrapped up this story. It was the kind of ending where you would have a totally different perspective of the movie if you watch it a second time. The ending was dramatically climactic, it was tragic, and it was satisfying.

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Con: Convenient Secrets (-2pts)

This is one of those movies where one character has a lot more information than others, and they seem to choose not to share that information for no good reason. The only reason is that sharing that information earlier would make the story go very differently. It would have made the movie end sooner, and it would have been a lot less dramatic. I always hate when filmmakers do this, because it just reeks of lazy writing. Fortunately, you get over this pretty quickly, because the movie ends not long after you have all the answers, but it kind of taints a lot of what came before, because you know everything would have gone much better for everyone involved if characters just told each other what they knew.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: B- (83pts)

In the Shadow of the Moon was a pretty interesting mystery-thriller. It had some issues, one of which being lazy and ineffective aging methods. Another was an unjustified obsession from the main character — although, to be clear, I thought the obsession itself was justified, but thought the impact it had on Locke’s life was not . Then there were the convenient secrets that characters kept from each other for the sake of keeping the movie going. That being said, the movie did have a lot going for it.

First, there was Michael C. Hall’s character, who added a lot to Locke’s story, as having a character like this to play off of made Locke’s story arc a lot more impactful. Second, there was the ending of the movie, which was a big revelation that added a whole new perspective to this story. Finally, there was the mystery: Locke‘s chase of the mysterious Rya. This storyline was mysterious, it was interesting, it kept me guessing, and its conclusion was not without its surprise. The movie had some flaws, but it was a unique and interesting mystery-thriller with plenty of action sprinkled throughout to keep viewers excited along the way.