Netflix's In the Shadow of the Moon Recommendation
Netflix's In the shadow of the Moon Recommendation - and its loopy madness might be the movie hit that you need right now.
4.2Overall Score
Reader Rating: (4 Votes)

Spam is, usually, not your friend. But this time, when Netflix decided to message me about a new movie that I might find interesting – I thanked my lucky stars for their intrusiveness. I was sitting in the Portland airport, cockpit defrost mechanical issues plaguing my flight, and I was sorely in need of something to do. Thankfully, Netflix interjected. And, thankfully, the United Airlines Club area had fantastic Wi-Fi. All of these amazing coincidences came together to get Netflix’s In the Shadow of the Moon Recommendation out to you.

In the Shadow of the Moon is an innovative little time travel movie that moves from 1989, to 1997, 2006, and so on, as our characters deal with the chaos of the reality of a murderer that is moving through history for an apparent horrible purpose. Here, if you must, just watch this trailer. Or better yet, just open up Netflix and watch it now. Sight unseen. TRUST ME FOR ONCE. So many of you let me know afterwards and their like, yeah, you told me I would like it – but I didn’t believe you. BUT THEN MY WIFE said, HEY, TRY THIS! And I did. (‘But you told me about it first, and now I’m sheepishly admitting my moral failings…’)

Quick In The Shadow of the Moon Walkthrough

If you’ve seen the movie – this is where we can sort of walk it through and determine what exactly happened. If you haven’t seen the movie, did I mention yet that you can watch it right here? Well, yes! Yes, you can! So please do so, and we’ll see you back here on this page in 105 minutes. I better see really long “time on page” stats for this page – you hear me!? With that out of the way – probably the best way to walk through this movie is by following Rya from the beginning of her life to the end. It 100% will turn the movie inside out – but it’ll be a revelation to some of you that didn’t fully grasp what was happening throughout the film. But WARNING – I will spoil this movie almost with point one. So – do not move any further unless you want this movie to be one big pointless waste of time. Got it?

In the Shadow of the Moon Walkthrough Following Rya

2015 Rya (played by the Aussie, Cleopatra Coleman) is born. And she is held soon after by her newly reformed grandfather (played by Boyd Holbrook, who was in the awesome movie Morgan and Logan).

2024 – The great uprising occurs and millions die for the Real America Movement cause.

2040 – Rya is 25 now, having been raised with the love of her grandfather and parents. She’s taught the love of ice cream pancakes and how to ride a bicycle, she applies for a role with Rao Tech that will right the wrongs of America’s history – specifically the crimes of the “Real America Movement” that upended the world 16 years ago.

2042Rya completed her training, and is given the Time Assassination Skewer Knife, (TASK – yes, I made that up…I know, you are right, it is good. Hahahah.) has a list of names, and is tasked (hahahaha) with traveling back in time before the revolt began.

2015 – Jump 1- Rya meets her insane grandfather on the beach and convinces him not to kill her…because, SHOCK! She’s his granddaughter, and they have a bright life together, even though he kills her 27 years ago. After this encounter, we can assume she goes out and stabs the first of the people on the list. She travels back to 2042.

2006 – Jump 2 – Rya finds Mrs. Russell but isn’t able to find her husband Nowak. Rya kills her on her farm – and she is soon after found by Locke, and he shoots her in the hand. Luckily he’s a bad shot.

1997 – Jump 3 – Locke and his partner reopen the case when a copy cat begins murdering in the exact same way as the woman 9 years earlier. Locke and Maddox chase down a lead to an airport where Rya is. Rya accidentally kills Maddox – and she takes Locke with her, and eventually tells him she’s trying to save people’s lives, and dumps him in the river.

1988 – Jump 4 – Rya stabs several people who die when the serum in their heads causes their brains to explode from the future. Rya congratulates him on his daughter…who isn’t born yet. Locke and Rya fight on the subway platform, Locke stabs her with TASK and she falls in front of a train and dies. Later that night, Locke’s wife dies. And with the final members of the Real America Movement dead, Rya has saved the nation from a terrible future.

The Ins and Outs of In the Shadow of the Moon

I literally just spent 2 hours in a Starbucks scrolling backwards and forwards searching for a pattern to Rya’s travels. When she traveled when. I looked at when she was shot, and then what she knew when. What she told her grandfather, when did she find out she would die? “So this is where it happens?” Until I realized it was just so utterly simple. I’M AN IDIOT. She was just moving further back in time until she was able to get everyone on the list. Before they had been radicalized and didn’t see it coming. Gah! I also thought, while watching the film, that she could only jump once per nine years – but it doesn’t take a ninny to realize she wasn’t aging. Yeah, I’m not really the sharpest tool in the tool shed sometimes.

Which brings us to something of a Minority Report sort of a question here. Obviously the movie is talking about a sort of White Nationalist contingent of people who are moving against the nation to create the Real America. MAGA anyone? And while I’m a Republican, I wouldn’t mind them all dying ahead of Trump’s becoming president. Me included. If it would stop him. BUT, that is the point here…should people die for sins they haven’t committed yet? Are we gods that might cast judgement against an intrinsically evil people?

Normally in time travel movies time is not fixed. Travel allows for the plasticity of events and changes. But in this Moon universe that isn’t possible for some reason. Once the travel has been made, the events are cast in stone. When Rya finds out she died 27 years ago she says that it is impossible to undo, and accepts her fate.

But should we hunt Rya down and murder her? Or heck, pull a Terminator move and take Rao out instead. They are murders too. Are we saying that Rya is innocent of her murder of these future Real America members because they are murderers? Hitler man!! Wouldn’t you trade Hitler’s life for millions of Jews and gypsies? OK. But Maddox? His accidental death was OK? Just collateral damage in the war against murderers and anarchists?

There is a very simple reason why time has to be locked down and cemented, despite the fact that Rya is able to move backwards in time. Why? Because we have to make a base assumption about this universe that people can’t change. Otherwise, morally, we have to give them the chance at reform, give them a chance at not joining the Real America Movement. They had a chance at redemption and they didn’t take it, so we will judge them before their wrong doings. No?

Your wallet is on the table…and inside said wallet are delicious tickets to 21 Pilots next show. Well, that is tempting to me. And so I take your tickets – and enjoy the show. Unbeknownst to me, you are a time traveler, and you head back to yesterday, where you perform a citizen’s arrest for the future stealing of your wallet. Well, THAT ISN’T FAIR…I might not do it this time. But if time is locked, you can ascertain that I did, so I do, so I will. So the arrest is warranted. But I’m a mess. Some days I take your tickets – and other days I buy you some awesome black skin paint for your neck and hands for the show. (If you aren’t into 21 never mind). That is the beautiful mess that is the human condition.

I read a couple reviews of the movie before I watched it – and several different times I saw that the reviewer extolled the rigidity and logic of the flow of the movie. And yet, this is a pretty massive plot hole. Time cannot change – which allows for judgement – but the act of judging itself is changing time. Now, I will grant, I didn’t fully grasp the import of killing the Real America Movement from the future. Is this the link that allows them to look out the window and see – yup, STILL ANARCHY, murder them…and push the button? And they just keep pushing buttons until the chaos ends? Is this the point?

Anyway, I loved the movie in spite of the theological and moral implications of judging people who haven’t committed crimes yet. I mean, didn’t the people rise up against the Minority Report for them doing that? Are we not a fickle bunch?

Edited by: CY

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22 Responses

  1. deKev

    I absolutely love the time travel mechanics of this movie, the one where the two protagonists are moving in opposite directions … relative to time – an oxymoron no doubt, but hey, this is sci-fi after all! Also, despite the fact that she is using time travel to cheat history by altering the past (not the future, mind you), the same time travel rules would decree that Rya cannot alter the other fact that she is heading towards certain death at the hands of her grandfather in her future (or her grandfather’s past). What mind-blowing irony!

    Regarding the TASK (good name, BTW), I’ve given it some thought. Initially, I thought it is just an over-elaborate piece of sci-fi device that is purely there for window-dressing. I mean, why not just terminate would-be terrorists with a gun, a knife, or any other garden variety of weapon likely to be used by a serial killer? In fact, the TASK, which uses a futuristic coronal isotopy-thingy as poison, and which leaves behind a tell-tale 3-hole puncture wound, is such a one-of-a-kind weapon that it’s more likely than not to leave behind enough clues for obsessive detectives to piece together killings that happened over an extended period of time. But then your reference to Minority Report made me realize that the isotopy-thingy acts more like a trigger-activated poison that if left inactivated, will probably lie dormant and safe in the body of an anarchist. Remember the part of the movie where Rao is saying something about the possibility of triggering the solution from a future point in time? So, it would suggest that only when it is determined in the future that the target HAS to be eliminated, will the poison be activated by Rao and co. So yeah, to answer your question, “should people die for sins they haven’t committed yet”, I think every anarchist who’s been given the injection will be given a fair trial over … time too. Further, I’m not sure if it’s just a coincidence, but the TASK looks suspiciously like a bolt gun used for so-called “humane” slaughtering of pigs and cows.

  2. Lisa

    Ok, so I just watched this film and still have some questions. I ran right over here to see if you had watched it yet and knew I would get a better understanding of what happened if you did. I get that they were both moving in opposite directions. Locke obviously moving forward obsessing and basically wasting his life and missing his own daughter’s life and his granddaughter moving the opposite way back through time hence why in 2015 she doesn’t know yet she will be killed in 1988 since 1988 is her last visit. So I guess my question lies more with the tech. It’s not really explained well the how of how she travels (the moon bridge?) and the mechanism for the killings. The machine of poison or whatever and why they do it this way as opposed to her just offing her subjects? The missing physicist character could have been fleshed out a bit more perhaps. Also, why doesn’t she tell grandpa Locke who she is in 1988 when he corners her so he doesn’t kill her? I definitely need to think about this film some more or watch it again and see what I might have missed the first time around. Now, I absolutely adore crazy movies like this and the whole time travel aspect but I found the end message to be a bit preachy. Not that this kind of hate isn’t being spread because it most certainly is, especially since 2016 if you get my drift and I’d love to erase some folks from history too! But all in all I enjoyed the film just because it was different than the usual fare of shoot em up action flicks and silly rom coms.

  3. Pedro

    I’m glad you brought the moral and ethical implications of the plot into your review. Minority Report was all about questioning the rightness of the Pre-Cog system. In this movie, you’re not supposed to question anything at all and just cheer for the cast of these little Hitlers as they kill people decades before they might/might not join a group of White Nationalists. And if you question them? Well, you have to be killed too. I enjoyed the action/sci-fi elements of the movie. The politics of it repulse me.

  4. Ryissa

    I watched this movie last night and then slept on things before attempting to comment. There were some things bothering me about the film when I went to bed and I was hoping I’d feel less annoyed after catching up on sleep. I was soo… wrong.

    In fairness there were some things I liked:

    The concept, I am a sucker for movies that present me with a paradox. A crime going backwards and the person solving it going forwards holds a certain fascination.

    The time machine. It looked cool and how it worked wasn’t geek-splained. The audience didn’t need to know how it worked, only that it worked.

    But now we get into what is wrong with this film:

    It never grapples with the morals of pre-emptively offing people before to prevent them from committing heinous acts. No matter how “bad” the people you are taking out are, a lack of remorse makes you just as bad if not worse.

    There are holes in the time travel paradox you can drive a truck through, but that is generally the problem in most movies that use time travel. This is the least of the movie’s issues.

    It is supposedly on some level a tale of how racist attitudes will kill us all (hence why we must kill certain radicalized persons), but the story telling is blind to white privilege and the clichés that are rampant in this movie. The female characters have no depth, the African American characters are essentially window dressing, other minorities are all but absent and the sole south Asian character is science geek. The hero is dismissive towards his African American co-workers (basically takes their ideas and uses them for babysitting so he can do real police work–I was waiting for him to say “get me a sandwich”). Granted this is essentially a fluffy action sci-fi, but it could have at least tried to dodge some obvious problems.

    I could dig into things further, but the biggest dissonance in this movie is that the protagonist is completely blind to how he is part of the problem. Nobody challenges him on his obvious white privilege and nothing he encounters makes him rethink his worldview. No, he’s not radicalized and no he doesn’t’ have a “problem” with women or non-whites, but he displays all the signs of someone who has never understood how he contributes to insidious forms of racism and sexism. Even with protests raging in the city, not one line of dialogue from him the demonstrates a deeper understanding. It was so blatant in the early part of the movie that I thought perhaps it was a deliberate portrayal that would be flipped on its head later, but that never happens. Clearly the writers and directors missed a huge disconnect that was right in front of them.

    End of Rant

  5. Ryissa

    The good: Time machine looks cool and concept of bi-directional timeline is entertaining.

    The bad: The whole movie is tone deaf.

    No grappling with the ethics of killing bad people before they commit heinous acts.
    The main character reeks of white privilege and never wakes up to this fact. Initially I thought his obliviousness and off handed treatment of his female African American fellow officers was initially an attitude that would get turned on its head. Especially as the film made it very apparent that much of what was going on was about race relations. But clearly the writers missed that they had a character one step away from “make me a sandwich” attitudes trying to understand the motives of a future time traveling serial killer from a similar background.

    Okay, it’s a movie aimed at white guys, but could the writers have at least tried to make the black characters and/or female characters something more than window dressing for the most part? Whether it’s the wife who dies tragically, the daughter he alienates himself from, or the co-workers he disrespects—none of these characters say a single thing to make us think they have a brain in their head. Even when protests are going on in memory of the woman he killed (justifiable or not), there is no sign that he can see why his actions are called into question.

    The “minority” characters are cliché so at least it’s a mercy there are so few of them. Whether it’s his African American partner who becomes the sacrificial lamb for our protagonist’s quest, or the south Asian scientist who appears to be crazed. (And let’s not forget that the scientist starts planning the death of people before the radicalized hot heads have apparently done anything truly evil. We are not given any reason to understand why he sees this as necessary … so confusing). The black-female cops our protagonist works with he uses either for their ideas or as babysitting services while he does “real” police work.

    To recap this white dude with blinders on is trying to figure out why a black woman from the future is killing seemingly random people. Is it any wonder it took him 27 years to figure out that racism was at the heart of it? In his defense, the supposedly truly “evil” people in this movie seem to mainly write bad propaganda pamphlets, so her killing them seems extreme other than a solitary flash forward scene to try to explain it all. Or rather, is it any wonder we have trouble swallowing something that the writers of this movie don’t get?

    I have trouble giving this film anything above an overall 3. It’s mired in tropes that should have gone out the window 20 years ago and expects us to accept its message.

    End of Rant

  6. Ryissa

    Looks like my first attempt at commenting decided to show up after I rewrote the whole thing and posted a second time.

    Sorry for the redundancy!

  7. Lisa

    It’s that age old question, is it ok to kill one to save many except the way the movie executes their answer just doesn’t quite make it. The more I think about it, the more I have to wonder if the ones plotting to kill the few are as horrible as the ones who would end up killing many. In a better film, this would have been a great thing to question.

  8. Gwen

    I really didn’t liked that movie at all and actually I am quite into the time traveling stuff.
    This was just a very bad acted “for the greater good” – thingy. We were close to turn it off and I regret we didn’t do. Such a waste of time…naaaaaa, no way.

  9. deKev

    @Lisa, regarding your question, “why doesn’t she tell grandpa Locke who she is in 1988 when he corners her so he doesn’t kill her?” Taylor has already answered it here:

    “Normally in time travel movies time is not fixed. Travel allows for the plasticity of events and changes. But in this Moon universe that isn’t possible for some reason. Once the travel has been made, the events are cast in stone. When Rya finds out she died 27 years ago she says that it is impossible to undo, and accepts her fate.”

    If I may add my own observations to the above, it has all to do with the lack of free will on the part of Rya (from the perspective of the outside observers anyway), in the ONE CONSISTENT TIMELINE of the entire movie. First let me define the one consistent timeline of the movie: in chronological order, the movie’s timeline begins in 1988 with the 3 anarchists (the cook, the pianist and the bus driver) dying and ends in 2042 with Dr Rao terminating said anarchists by activating the isotope solution thingy from the comfort of his futuristic workplace. This is the timeline containing the entire events of the movie that are ALREADY SET in stone and cannot be changed no matter what. Rya, her counter-directional time travelling hijinks notwithstanding, is the primary cause (and “effect” too if we really think about it) of much of what happens in this timeline of events. Her grandpa Locke, being the major beneficiary (or victim) of Rya’s time travelling shenanigans, in turn sets events in motion for pretty much all that happens from 1988 to 2042. Yes, I include Rao’s invention of the time machine as part of the consequences of Locke’s actions. Without Locke’s obsession in catching the “serial killer”, Rao would not have created the time travel tech used by Rya in the first place, Rao says so himself in the van scene. In other words, this is a classic causal loop, where “a sequence of events is among the causes of another event, which is in turn among the causes of the first-mentioned event” (thank you, Wiki). So from the perspective of detached observers, Rya really has no free will, or it’s probably more accurate to say that Rya (and Locke and Rao and everyone else as a matter of fact) cannot act otherwise, or the entire timeline of events will NOT happen the way they do.

    Just for the sake of argument, let’s assume Rya or even Locke can act in their own free will (for lack of a better term) and does things differently. For e.g., Rya telling Locke “Locke, I’m your granddaughter” (sorry, Star Wars fans) in 1988 and thus avoiding her own death by train; or Locke preventing Rya from travelling back in time in 2042, knowing she will meet a certain train head-on. What happens to the core timeline then? I’d like to think the core timeline will branch off into another timeline or an alternate universe in a Multiverse or something along these lines. BUT all this would be OUTSIDE THE SCOPE of the original movie that is based on the core timeline, which would in turn mean that we would likely be watching an altogether different movie other than the one we actually did watch, yes?

    Ok, so that’s the easy part of the time travel mechanics done and dusted, yeah no kidding. What’s infinitely more difficult to wrap around the mind is what happens next after the end of the core timeline of events, i.e. what happens next after Rao activates the kill commands in 2042? Nothing of such is depicted or even hinted at in the movie. So here’s my two cents:

    Core timeline ends, new timeline emerges in 2042 with PAST events that have no bomb in Philly, 2024 and no subsequent civil war; no time machine built (no need for one) and consequently no Rya travelling back in time; and finally …… no anarchists getting murdered at all.

    I hope my suggestion, paradoxical that it may appear, is logically consistent nevertheless in the reality-bending world of time travelling and parallel universes, as I do so hope that some of the above commenters, who had expressed their disgust at the pre-emptive murders, will be able to find some solace … or something. One caveat though, even if my suggestion is er … acceptable, the anarchists still die in the original core timeline, mind you.

    So yeah, that’s my two cents worth, I would really appreciate if someone else can come up with an alternative scenario after 2042.

  10. Lisa

    I agree with all your points on both posts. The stereotyping was a bit much. Looks like they tried too hard to make this politically relevant. Plus, I found it hard to have empathy for any characters in the film.

  11. Lisa

    deKev, So basically you are saying that even when she finds out it will happen in a time she hadn’t traveled to yet, she must let it happen so the desired outcome happens and refuses to change it or say who she is? I guess that makes sense. At least I think that’s what you are saying, that events must go down in a specific way to supposedly right the wrongs of the past and everyone must play their part. I just find it interesting that everyone in the film just kind of goes along and no one questions the morality of what they are doing. I think we need 3 more movies to explain some of the gaping plot holes in this movie such as what you stated-what happens after? Because if those that would cause the events are killed in the past it makes the whole premise of creating the machine to kill them moot, right?

  12. deKev

    I suppose you can think of it like this: everyone, particularly Rya and Locke, are playing their part the movie’s plot explicitly sets out for them, such that it really doesn’t matter if they are fully aware of the plot in advance or not. That’s because in any case, they have to act it out, the result of which is the movie/timeline of events that we are watching. Should anyone deviate from their role, then it would be quite another movie/timeline of events/parallel universe that we are not watching.

    It’s a bit hard to wrap one’s head around this and I’m getting a headache as I’m putting thoughts into words… haha. But I think all this complication arises only because the movie (the one we’re watching, just to be doubly clear, ahem) chooses to have a very rigid set of time travel rules by having just A SINGLE TIMELINE. This single immutable timeline concept means that ALL events contained in the timeline cannot be altered, which in turn means that Rya dies in 1988; anarchists get murdered; the Philly bomb still goes off in 2024; the moon bridge time machine is used in 2042 and so on. Contrast this with a Back To The Future movie, the one where Marty almost erases himself in the future after travelling back in time and does certain things in the past. Here, nothing is writ in stone, future events are fluid and do change according to the actions of a time traveller, who has complete free will over his/her actions. This is possible because multiple timelines or parallel universes are allowed in the Back To The Future movies.

    Sorry if I pretend to write like an expert on these things, my knowledge of time travel is derived totally from movies and fiction, so yeah, feel free to poke holes or shoot it down at will, haha.

  13. Ryissa

    This movie got so stuck on answering the problems of the paradox itself, that it forgot to make sure the characters would resonate. By act 4 we have an obsessed disgraced douche cop being chased by a crazed scientist and none of it plays well for the audience. The explanations felt like somebody suddenly realized they had the last 15 minutes of the movie to explain things, so let’s make it all fit and call it a wrap.

    It’s a hot mess character and motivation wise. Which is unfortunate.

  14. Lisa

    Well, where else would we get our time travel info?! Haha. But I get it. The problem is because of the movie’s version of time travel and it’s rigidity. Had the folks who wrote the OA written this film, it would have been 12 hours long with a zillion timelines. Or even the German Dark writers. Then we would need Taylor to construct another chart for us.

  15. Ryissa

    I’d settle for the writers of Predestination to take a crack at this one. It would be dark, but the character arc would feel less cut and paste.

  16. Lisa

    Stereotypes are such a bore. And I prefer my movies without preachy politics as I watch them as a reprieve from what’s going on in this country!

  17. Lisa

    No, I don’t think so. You can have a mind bending film without the politics and my reasoning is that I do follow politics closely and right now they are super stressful because of the deep divide. In fact I think most mind job movies are not political plus I have the beginnings of an ulcer so I try to keep my entertainment from stressing me out! So when I watch film and tv I like it to be as far from reality as possible and a reprieve from reality especially with the current occupant of the WH. Taylor, did you watch the first episode of Watchmen yet by any chance? It was good but again, we had the super stereotypes going on.

  18. Lisa

    Btw, did you watch Eli on Netflix yet? I’m not going to recommend it but I’m curious!

  19. Lisa

    Not a 4 star winner, IMO. Eli, that is. But there was an element that reminded me of you.


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