STARRING: Boyd Holbrook, Cleopatra Coleman, Bokeem Woodbine, Rudi Dharmalingam, Rachel Keller and Michael C. Hall
A Philadelphia police officer struggles with a lifelong obsession to track down a mysterious serial killer whose crimes defy explanation.
In 1988, Philadelphia police officer Thomas Lockhart, hungry to become a detective, begins tracking a serial killer who mysteriously resurfaces every nine years. But when the killer’s crimes begin to defy all scientific explanation, Locke’s obsession with finding the truth threatens to destroy his career, his family, and possibly his sanity.
In The Shadow Of The Moon is the latest Netflix Originals release, the sci-fi thriller written by Gregory Weidman and Geoff Tock and directed by Jim Mickle. The film is set at the beginning in Philadelphia, 1988, where police officer Thomas Lockhart is on the scene of a night where several people simultaneously hemorrage to death in different locations in the city. When the deaths are believed to be connected with Lockhart finding similar puncture wounds in the back of the necks of the victims, they believe they find the killer who dies upon resisting arrest. Nine years later, the killings begin to happen again, with Lockhart now a detective, going down a road of obsession to find the truth that threatens to tarnish his relationships with his job, friends and family.
I’ve only seen one Jim Mickle film previously (2014’s Cold In July) and that was a film that was a hybrid of different genres. Here, In The Shadow Of The Moon is arguably his most ambitious project yet in being a cat-and-mouse, sci-fi thriller film that is told through different periods of time. The setup of the premise is well executed, particularly in showcasing how the first three victims meet their demise simultaneously, one in an opera house, another working in a diner and the other driving a public bus. The initial pursuit of Thomas and Maddox going after the killer is also engaging to watch as is its other pursuit scenes in the second half of the film. The mystery about the killer and their motives in appearing every nine years to kill people had me interested in seeing how that answer would be executed and following Thomas Lockhart’s journey had me at least invested till the bitter end. The majority of the films runtime rests entirely on Boyd Holbrook’s shoulders and when it comes to the action/chase scenes as well as a few scenes highlighting his obsession in hunting this serial killer showcases Holbrook’s strengths as an actor and I like his performance overall as Thomas Lockhart.
The film has a lot of ideas being plotted here and there and the film spends the second half focusing on the Lockhart’s journey to uncovering the truth to the point that all the questions that he and the audience has is revealed in a lazy, narrative exposition way that makes the films conclusion rather underwhelming considering the promise of the first act. Holbrook’s character in the second half also becomes not as interesting as he initially was as there’s a lot of family drama tied into his obsession for the truth and he literally gives up on his life and everyone around him, making him difficult to have any emotional attachment or sympathy for him. The rest of the cast are low-key fine in their roles but are either underdeveloped (Rudi Dharmalingam and Michael C. Hall) or very limited in their screentime (Cleopatra Coleman and Bokeem Woodbine).
In The Shadow Of The Moon has a promising first act that unfortunately feels like it gets crushed under the weight of its own ideas and fizzles out towards its conclusion. The direction is solid, as is the performances from the ensemble, though some of their characters are underdeveloped/have little screentime. With its premise, I can definitely someone adapting this as a television series in the near future.