Single mother Collette McVeigh (Andrea Riseborough) is a Republican living in 1993 Belfast with her mother and hardliner IRA brothers. When she is arrested for her part in an aborted IRA bomb plot in London, an M15 officer, Mac (Clive Owen), offers her a choice: lose everything and go to prison for 25 years or return to Belfast to spy on her own family. With her son's life in her hands, Collette chooses to place her trust in Mac and return home. But when her brothers' secret operation is ambushed, suspicions of an informant are raised and Collette finds herself and her family in grave danger.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The IRA thriller subgenre is rife with films that convey the menace of deadly rivalry between brothers - both literal and symbolic. It's a theme that has spawned a million films and many of them have the same oppressive mood as Shadow Dancer. This isn't to condemn the film as derivative, but there is little new to be found here. Of course, if you're new to this genre, you'll respond more positively.
I suppose the world weariness that greets these films is partly to blame for the critical resistance: what are we learning is my question, and the answer is not too clear.
The filmmakers go to great lengths to create a sense of authenticity, to a fault. We are left to assume a lot about who is what and where they fit in. The big picture is clear enough, though, and it's depressingly familiar.
Maybe I'm shell-shocked, but the Irish 'troubles' seem so barbaric in the context of our world today and I find it hard to relate to these themes. The film is well made, but for what purpose. Reminding we don't need - reminding we've had.
Review by Louise Keller:
A smouldering IRA thriller replete with betrayals and twists, Shadow Dancer excels in its moody portrayals and intrigue, although confusion with plot points occasionally distracts. Having recently brought us extraordinary documentaries Man on Wire and Project Nim, director James Marsh clearly has a broad palate and this specific tale concentrating on the IRA/British conflict is successfully claustrophobic in its depiction.
Recently seen as Rose in Brighton Rock and as Wallis Simpson in W.E., Andrea Riseborough continues to impress with her performance as Collette, the young Belfast mother, trapped in whirlwind of hatred within her family in the midst of IRA resistance activity. Tom Bradby has adapted his own novel and the result, largely due to its stellar cast headed by Clive Owen, leaves an impression.
The brief, but potent flashback set in Belfast in 1973 when a young boy is killed in IRA/British crossfire, leaves us with the unforgettable image of a distraught, tearful young girl, whose burden of guilt is written all over her face. She should have gone to buy cigarettes for her father, not her brother. Twenty years later in a London tube station, Collette (Riseborough) plants a bag containing a bomb.
It takes some time to grasp who are the players and what is their significance, as we see Collette in her home environment, where her brothers Gerry (Aidan Gillen) and Connor (Domhnall Gleeson) live to serve their duty for the IRA. When told to "talk to Kevin", we understand that Kevin (David Wilmot), is the one who decides if there is a traitor in their midst. Her interrogation by British Intelligence's Mac (Clive Owen), when he offers her and her young son immunity if she acts as a mole, sets up the relationship between the two; her test being to divulge information against her brothers. Collette's Ma (Brid Brennan) remains in the background, overseeing every action and activity.
It soon becomes clear that the promises Mac gives Collette do not share the same commitment of his superior, Kate Fletcher, played effectively by Gillian Anderson. It is always raining in the bleak waterfront scenes when Mac and Collette meet on their weekly rendez-vous, echoed by the bleak ambiance. A planned hit goes wrong, loyalties waver and repercussions occur. Shadow Dancer is the code name assigned to the file of the incident that goes horribly wrong.
This is a film that is often tough to watch. Requiring concentration to keep abreast of the action, I found it more enjoyable in hindsight than I did at the time, when confusions clouded my appreciation of Marsh's achievements.
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SHADOW DANCER (M)
CAST: Clive Owen, Andrea Riseborough, Gillian Anderson, Aidan Gillen, Domhnall Gleeson, Brid Brennan, David Wilmot, Stuart Graham, Martin McCann
PRODUCER: Chris Coen, Ed Guiney, Andrew Lowe
DIRECTOR: James Marsh
SCRIPT: Tom Bradby (novel by Bradby)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Rob Hardy
EDITOR: Jinx Godfrey
MUSIC: Dickon Hinchliffe
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jon Henson
RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Potential
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 11, 2012