In the Shadow of the Moon (2019) Netflix Movie Review

In the Shadow of the Moon is a 2019 American science fiction thriller film directed by Jim Mickle and written by Gregory Weidman and Geoff Tock. It stars Boyd Holbrook, Cleopatra Coleman, and Michael C. Hall. The film had its world premiere at Fantastic Fest on September 21, 2019. It was later released on September 27, 2019, by Netflix.


In 1988, several people simultaneously hemorrhage to death in Philadelphia, disintegrating their brains and causing massive blood loss. Police officer Thomas Lockhart believes the case to be his ticket to becoming a detective, though his partner, Maddox, is less enthusiastic. Lockhart’s brother-in-law, Detective Holt, initially dismisses Lockhart’s observations but eventually admits the deaths are connected when Lockhart finds similar wounds on each victim. Lockhart and Maddox find an assault victim with similar wounds and she describes her assailant as a twenty-something African American woman with a wounded hand before dying. After Holt organizes a citywide manhunt, Lockhart and Maddox find the suspect and chase her into a subway, where she subdues Maddox. When Lockhart confronts her, the suspect reveals details about his life, including that his wife will give birth that day. She predicts her own death just prior to a struggle, which ends with a train hitting her. Although confused about the many unexplained details, the police close the case. Meanwhile, Lockhart’s wife dies in childbirth.

Nine years later, amid protests against police brutality on the anniversary of the suspect’s death, an apparent copycat begins another killing spree. Lockhart, now a detective, can find no apparent motive or connection between the victims. He urges the department to keep the reopened investigation quiet to minimize racial tensions. Riots break out when Holt publicizes surveillance footage of the copycat and promises a full investigation. Lockhart traces keys retrieved in 1988 to an aircraft manufactured in 1996. Naveen Rao, a physicist, insists this is proof of time travel, but Maddox and Lockhart ignore him. After tracking the copycat to an airfield, Lockhart is shocked to find the same suspect from 1988, who is alive and has not aged. She unintentionally kills Maddox and takes Lockhart hostage, again revealing knowledge about his life she could not know. After warning him off, she disappears.

In 2006, Lockhart is a private investigator obsessed with solving the case, which he now believes involves time travel and Dr Rao, who has disappeared. His teenage daughter lives with Holt, and Lockhart maintains only occasional contact with her. Lockhart discovers a previously unrecorded victim from the 1988 murders and visits the victim’s wife, who reveals her husband ran a white nationalist militia group. Lockhart meets Holt and advances the theory that the suspect is moving back in time as they are moving forward, meaning she genuinely died in 1988. Holt dismisses the theory and insists Lockhart gets psychiatric help. Lockhart steals Holt’s badge, uses it to impersonate a police officer, and tracks down the former girlfriend of the white nationalist leader, arriving at her home to find she has been murdered by the suspect. Lockhart chases her and he wounds her hand with a bullet before she disappears in a time machine. Lockhart is arrested by Holt as an unseen Rao watches on.


Rao resurfaces in 2015, determined to stop Lockhart from interrupting the woman’s next killing spree. In addition, Rao admits to developing the technology the woman uses to kill her victims and says he now believes her cause is justified. He says that she is killing to stop something far worse and that to prevent such a major tragedy, it is necessary to kill enough people in the past who may spark the actions of those responsible. Lockhart escapes from Rao and confronts the woman, who reveals herself as Rya, his estranged daughter’s child from an interracial marriage. In the future, Lockhart convinced Rya to take the mission after the militia group’s terrorism triggered a new civil war. Rya is traveling backwards in time, appearing every nine years in reverse chronological order. From her perspective, the events in 1988 have yet to occur, and her hand is not yet wounded. Overcome with guilt over causing his own granddaughter’s death, Lockhart reveals to her the events that unfold in 1988. Convinced that her cause is just, he lets her complete the killings. Lockhart reunites with his family, and the civil war is averted.

My Personal Thoughts

n the Shadow of the Moon (Netflix) tells the story of youthful, naive Locke, a policeman with a thirst for “real” crime and with a passion that will eventually shape his future. In 1988 a string of deaths inspire great interest due to the cause and circumstances surrounding each one. These people seem to have nothing in common, except for three injection wounds to the neck and all dying in the same brutal way at the same time. When a victim is found with the telling three marks alive, she manages to give just enough information for Locke to identify a suspect. This is where the story becomes something of the unexpected as the suspect known as the women in the hoodie confronts Locke and reveals she already knows him and his entire life, including his future.

In the Shadow of the Moon begins in a fairly safe and mundane way, surely laying the path of information for future excitement. To begin Locke’s character is neither here nor there, he is just of the ordinary. A cop that sticks his nose where it is not qualified to go, in the hopes of being promoted to a detective. A usual storyline not unfamiliar to those interested in the crime-fiction drama, as an ignorant police officer uses their charm and sway to intrude on crime scenes. Personally, Locke’s charm was not that charming and when he was allowed to literally mess with a corpse after saying “I’ll give you a smoke” it all felt a little juvenile and predictable. Fortunately for In the Shadow of the Moon this start was just the foundation for a character that was soon to be rich, complex and in a way heartbreaking.

Much in the fashion of other memorable classics such as Memento or Shutter Island, In the Shadow of the Moon takes audiences on a roller coaster as they navigate the twists and turns of the narrative. Do not be fooled; this film is not what it seems and is sure to break your heart and remind you what it means to value the life you have. With little expectations going in audiences will be pleasantly surprised to be swept up in the obsession that Locke finds himself gripped by as he tries to understand why people die in a certain fashion every nine years. The script is tantalizing and incredibly paced as the narrative urges audiences to try and comprehend for themselves the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the “murders”. Following Locke as he is plagued by his unquenchable need to discover the truth leads the audience to question their own morals, integrity and egotistical desires as we wonder what we might do in his shoes.

Boyd Holbrook plays the formidable Locke, lending his talent to portray a man that grows into himself through an arduously complex storyline. Holbrook is magnificent as he demonstrates a subtle character progression throughout the chronological years of the story. Holbrook offers a deep and meaningful character arc that does justice to the script, further influencing the audience to empathize and relate with the narrative on a profound level. Holbrook is not alone as In the Shadow of the Moon boasts a plethora of talent, including Cleopatra Coleman, Bokeem Woodbine and Michael C. Hall, whom all come together to sell the heart of the film with passion and gumption.

Overall In the Shadow of the Moon is tantalizing, provocative and exhilarating. It is the kind of movie you want to watch twice as new subtleties and nods to themes rear their faces in hindsight. The movie explores themes of race, politics and civil war whilst daringly wrapping their entire meaning in themes of time travel, dimension, and reality. The production designers and cinematographers should be commended for their nuance and sense of foreboding as props and shots are manipulated to give repeat viewers knowing nods to the plot that lays ahead. On a more human level, the film is one full of life lessons, of regret, closure and moving on. In the Shadow of the Moon is incredibly moving and had me with tears in my eyes as I was reminded what it means to only have one life and to live it fully as you truly cannot predict the future. Sure to be a win with crime-fiction and sci-fi fans both and honestly a contender to win the hearts of audiences who give it the chance, In the Shadow of the Moon is unpredictable and fresh, something new for audiences that want to experience something a little bit different, a film of passion and deception.

Directed byJim Mickle
Produced by Brian Kavanaugh-Jones Ben Pugh Rian Cahill Linda Moran Jim Mickle
Written by Gregory Weidman Geoff Tock
Starring Boyd Holbrook Cleopatra Coleman Michael C. Hall
Music byJeff Grace
CinematographyDavid Lanzenberg
Edited byMichael Berenbaum
42 Automatik Nightshade
Distributed byNetflix
Release date September 21, 2019 (Fantastic Fest) September 27, 2019 (United States)
Running time115 minutes
CountryUnited States

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