in-the-shadow-of-the-moon-poster

Stars: 3/5

As a “Dexter” stan, I get excited every time I see the name Michael C. Hall along with the words “serial killer.” Hence, I was so excited to see this movie I only read the premise and paid no attention to the genre until it smacked me in the face. 

In 1988, police officer Thomas Lockhart (Boyd Holbrook) is in the cusp of a promotion to detective that will put a stop to his graveyard shifts so he can spend time with his wife Jean (Rachel Keller) and soon-to-be born daughter. Several people simultaneously die of brain hemorrhages making Lockhart overstepped in the investigation. 

Initially dismissive, Lockhart’s brother-in-law, Detective Holt (Michael C. Hall), agrees the deaths are connected when Lockhart shows him puncture wounds in the backs of the victims’ necks. A live victim gives a description of the assailant before dying, prompting a manhunt that culminates with Lockhart and the assailant, Rya (Cleopatra Coleman), fighting in a subway station. 

Rya reveals personal details of Lockhart’s life before he accidentally pushes her in front of a train, killing her. As Rya said, Jean dies giving birth to Amy (Sarah Dugdale) that same night. Nine years later, Lockhart is a detective raising the now nine-year-old Amy by himself. Victims killed with the same MO on the anniversary of Rya’s assault leave the police puzzled and Lockhart is shocked to find it’s Rya killing them.  

I wasn’t expecting the sci-fi element at all. I thought the film would be a nod to eighties thrillers about serial killers so I watched the film expecting to be thoroughly disappointed. While it’s not a film that innovates the time-traveling trope, it does have strong points and a reverse-chronology, nine-year time-traveling sequence that meet the basic criteria of sci-fi thrillers.  

The burning rubble in the opening scene creates a sense of urgency. The viewer doesn’t really know how it connects to the story but they know something bad will eventually unravel. Nothing is clear until Rya reappears in 1997, at which point it becomes clear something supernatural is happening. It isn’t until she reappears in 2015 that she reveals her motives. 

The film explores the ethical conundrum of going back in time to eradicate key figures in a future catastrophe in order to prevent it. The film ultimately supports these actions as everyone is supportive of Rya once they find out her motives. It also answers the questions of altering the past to prevent the future as Rya is able to prevent the terrorist attack that opens the film. 

One of the weakest points of the film is Naveen Rao, a physicist who warms Lockhart the murders are connected to moon cycles and time traveling in 1997. He’s a central part of the film and even develops the time machine and the toxin Rya uses to kill the victims, who are revealed to be members of the extremist group responsible for the terrorist attack, which triggers a Civil War. 

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