Cinema Review: Shadow Dancer


DIR: James Marsh • WRI: Tom Bradby • PRO: Chris Co, Ed Guiney, Andrew Lowe • DOP: Rob Hardy • ED: Jinx Godfrey • DES: Jon Henson • CAST: Clive Owen, Andrea Riseborough, Gillian Anderson

Clive Owen. Need I say anymore? Nope didn’t think so. But if that isn’t enough for you – Owen, who plays MI5 undercover detective Mac, wades in to tackle head on the Irish republicans at the height of the troubles in 1990s Belfast. In a time when clearly everyone is out for themselves, yet united in the struggle for Irish freedom; unlikely alies form. This is a prime example of the harsh times experienced in IRA Belfast – although a slightly milder style, reminiscent of The Crying Game. The film, an adaption of Tom Bradby’s novel is the basis of the screenplay also written by Bradby and is directed by James Marsh (Project Nim & Man on Wire).

This action packed thriller is bursting with suggestive discourse throughout to keep you guessing. It’s all about being on the inside and keeping ‘shut’ and if you’re not… well then, you’ll see what I mean. Andrea Riseborough, who plays Colette McVeigh a young dark tempered woman, surpasses the stereotypical republican activists of the time, and her die-hard exterior we are first met with soon wears down to reveal a somewhat softer, vulnerable woman in search of a peaceful life for herself and her son. The McVeigh family are die hard republicans; Collette, full of guilt, is forced to become an MI5 informant, making a dangerous deal with Mac to protect her son and betraying her brothers in the process. She is now left to answer some rather awkward questions to their deeply suspicious leader Kevin, played by David Wilmot.

The plot takes many twists but the final turn is explosive! There are many reasons to see this film – the only criticism I would have is that there was a lot left unexpressed; the lack of portrayal of the history leaves the unfamiliar viewer guessing as to the reasons why the police are so indelicate at the funeral of Kevin’s father. And there are a lot of hidden meanings. Like Tinker Tailor, unless you are familiar with the history behind the period in which the film is set, it’s not easily accessible. So again I guess it’s aimed in some regards to a minority. Though, Riseborough’s acting ability is faultless as she conveys the deep misery of an entire province.

All is not what it seems.


Julie Nicholl-Stimpson

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
101 mins

Shadow Dancer is released on 24th August 2012


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