Netflix Originals have become a huge part of the movie industry in just a few short years. But there's only so much marketing budget, and sometimes even Netflix-made movies can get lost in the shuffle. For example, this crime thriller that combines all the time-jumping of shows like Dark with the intrigue of a hardboiled cop drama.
The cold open of 2019's In the Shadow of the Moon is the same cold open used in procedurals like Law and Order and House: we're introduced to a group of strangers, and then they suffer some unexplained event. In this case, a concert pianist, a bus driver, and a fry cook all suddenly start bleeding from the nose, ears, and mouth, and die.
We are then introduced to our main character, a beat cop named Thomas Lockhart who aspires to making detective in order to support his very pregnant wife. It's a transparent attempt to make the protagonist sympathetic, but it feels more like an homage to classic cop movies than a lazy screenwriting shortcut.
As Lockhart investigates the deaths under the skeptic eye of his brother-in-law, Detective Holt, he finds three small bumps on the back of each victim's neck. When they find an assault victim with the same marks, she describes a young woman in a blue hoodie with dried blood on her left hand before she too succumbs to a massive hemorrhage.
Lockhart stumbles upon the killer just as his wife goes into labor. The mysterious woman in the hoodie predicts not only will his wife die, but she will die too. Sure enough, she gets hit by a train, and Lockhart's wife dies before her character can become more than just a device to establish stakes.
It's the perfect set up for a cop thriller with a sci-fi twist, one that I won't reveal but involves time travel and some retroactive justice. When the trail goes cold, Lockhart naturally becomes obsessed with the case that indirectly took his wife, not knowing the true purpose for this supposed random killing spree.
Yes, this movie may feel a little bit like a B-movie genre mash-up. Yes, the futuristic murder weapon is just an air saw, and the appearance of Michael C. Hall as Detective Holt doesn't go too far to elevate it out of obscurity. But the genres it mashes up are rarely high budget blockbusters themselves, so it makes sense. The story manages to get its point across without having to do anything too ambitious it looks unbelievable.
Time travel movies are often seen from the perspective of the time traveler, or at least the "terrestrial" characters are given a chance to travel themselves. In the Shadow of the Moon never does that. Lockhart is simply an observer to time travel, and like any good cop protagonist, he just wants to catch his perp! The reveal, however, is a lot more closer to home than he realizes.
In the Shadow of the Moon is now streaming on Netflix.