In the Shadow of the Moon (dir. Jim Mickle, 2019) – Officer Thomas Lockhart spends decades tracking down a mysterious serial killer, who resurfaces every nine years.
In 1988, several strangers die gruesome deaths across the country at the same time, and the police are no closer to a motive. That is until one victim’s dying words points to an unidentified suspect – a young black woman in a hoodie (Cleopatra Coleman).
Officers Lockhart (Boyd Holbrook) and Maddox (Bokeem Woodbine) manage to track down the alleged serial killer at the train station, only to witness her fatal accident. Not before she calls Lockhart by name and predicts the birth of his daughter.
The incident, followed by the shock of his personal tragedy, sends him spiralling down a dark rabbit hole as he goes on an obsessive hunt for elusive answers. A glimmer of hope comes in the return of the killer nine years later, alive and unaged.
In its run time of two hours, In the Shadow of the Moon leaps across five time periods from 1988 to 2024. A sci-fi/noir crossover echoing Altered Carbon, the ambitious police procedural is made engaging by its time travel elements. At least, at first. As time jumps forward, the narrative begins to feel strangely stagnant and tedious.
By the third time jump, the brooding leading man has begun to dull the action to a deathly bore. Part of it is in how the mystery collapses soon as the rambling physicist enters the room, revealing the nature of the game an act too early. That leaves little for Lockhart’s quest apart from dead ends, which play out in dull beats. Years turn him into a trope, letting time pass him by because of the one that got away.
Unkempt facial hair marks his mental decline, as his brother-in-law Detective Holt (an underused Michael C. Hall) makes failed attempts to intervene. There is a glimpse of emotional depth that could have been. But watching them age turns out to be the most interesting bit of their serviceable performances.
Thematically, many grand ideas are grazed against, yet never expanded upon. One sequence features chilling protests against the police for the death of the black suspect, executed before a fair trial. Yet the commentary on race relations soon gets lost in the backdrop, before the riotous outcry softens to a whisper.
With neither a strong message or an emotional connection to the characters, the film’s teased stirring resolution ultimately fails to come into fruition. Exposition tells all that the audience would have already known by then, leaving behind a less than memorable ending.
In the Shadow of the Moon suffices as decent entertainment, if forgettable and lacking in heart.