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In the Shadow of the Moon

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
In the Shadow of the Moon Movie Poster Image
Cop tracks killer from future; violence and language.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 105 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

It's important to stop destructive ideas before they can spread. The ends justify the means. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tom doggedly pursues a cold case, even when he's convinced that the killer comes back from the future every nine years and then disappears.

Violence

A murderer injects victims with a deadly poison that results in horrible bloody deaths. Car chases result in accidents that hurt people, destroy property. A man is thrown out of a plane into water. A plane crashes. A man is kidnapped, then attacks the driver of the getaway car, which crashes and cripples the driver. A man is shot in the head and dies. A woman of seeming superhuman strength bests several men in hand-to-hand combat. The public cries racism when cops round up Black women for a murder. Pigs are given an experimental poison and die by bleeding out of their heads. A woman dies in childbirth.

Sex
Language

"F--k," "s--t," "d--k," and "bitch."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes. One man snorts what appears to be cocaine. Someone is mistakenly believed to have died of a drug overdose.
 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that In the Shadow of the Moon is a cautionary sci-fi fantasy in which a cop discovers that a killer from the future is coming to attack Philadelphia citizens every nine years. Chasing this killer upends his life. Political undertones straight from today's headlines abound, with the filmmakers sending an alert to the dangers of White supremacy and the importance of eradicating it. People are murdered in a bloody manner. Car chases, car crashes, a plane crash, death by gun shot, and other violent acts are shown. A woman dies in childbirth. Pigs are given an experimental poison and die by bleeding out of their heads. Adults drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, and consume illegal drugs. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "d--k," and "bitch."

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What's the story?

As IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON begins in 2024, the world seems war-devastated and unpopulated. Cut to 1988, when a pianist in concert, a bus driver on her route, and a short-order cook grilling Philly Cheesesteaks, miles apart from each other, all bleed from their noses, eyes, mouths, and ears and drop dead ghoulishly. Officer Tom Locke (Boyd Holbrook) and his partner, Maddox (Bokeem Woodbine), discover a three-pronged injection site at the necks of each of the seemingly unrelated victims. Other such murders occur, and Tom, tracking and finally wrestling with the killer, finds that she mysteriously knows his name. This sets in motion a nearly 30-year chase that destroys Tom's life, brands him as crazy, and may or may not lead to the destruction of the world as we know it. Tom gives up his job, his family, and his life to make sense of a murderer who kills every nine years.

Is it any good?

This film is a cautionary tale that predicts doom, death, and destruction should today's leaders fail to act now in halting militant White supremacy and its associated terrorism. Sadly, the solution it offers is that we should kill people whose ideas we don't like, an approach some may find objectionable, especially when carried out in the name of democracy. In the Shadow of the Moon owes a great debt to other dystopian stories, specifically Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys, a far superior if somewhat more fanciful time-travel feature.

What this film lacks in visual excitement it makes up for in its topicality: the worry it seeks to wake us up to is in the news every day. While the film is often absorbing, it shares with other time-travel stories the usual logical problems that no one bothers much to explain here. A woman is both not born yet and 30 years old, and also simultaneously 9, around 30, and also dead. And some may be nagged by the fact that despite many opportunities, Tom never just stops to ask anyone to explain the plot from the future, nor the problem it is designed to address. Had he done so, the movie would have been a good 20 minutes shorter.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what happens when a society tries to suppress ideas, as in In the Shadow of the Moon. Do you think bad or evil ideas should be given an airing so that they can be discussed and argued down in public? Why or why not?

  • Why do you think democratic Germany banned Nazism and Nazi symbols and artifacts in that country after the Nazis were defeated in World War II?

  • Nazism and White supremacy seem to be on the rise worldwide in recent years. Why do you think that might be? Do you think it should be fought? If so, how?

Movie details

For kids who love science fiction

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