Oct 052012

shadow dancer

A mother’s love and desire to protect their child is one of the most powerful forces in existence  MI5 uses this to blackmail an active member of the IRA to spy for them, despite the serious risk to her own safety. Review of the political-thriller Shadow Dancer after the jump.

We first encounter Colette McVeigh (Andrea Riseborough) as she nervously travels on the London underground. The reason she is nervous is because she’s planning to carry out a terrorist attach on British soil – Colette is part of a well-known Republican family, and her brothers are extremely active IRA terrorists, who Colette assists on occasion. While in London Colette is taken by MI5 agents to a hotel where she is interviewed by Mac (Clive Owen). Mac gives Colette a ultimation – go to prison in England where she will be separated from her son and treated very badly, or spy for MI5 and report back on the plans and movements of her brothers and their associates.  The stakes are high and Mac expects a lot, but will Colette be able to rat her family out, and if she does how long will it be until they figure out that the dirty snitch is her?

Shadow Dancer image

Set during a highly volatile period in Irish history, Shadow Dancer is a political thriller with real moments of intensity and suspense. Despite effectively being a terrorist, the film manages to get you right behind Colette, and are fully invested in her safety. This is mostly due to the terrific performance from Andrea Riseborough who gives the tough Colette a vulnerable edge – you get the impression that she is going to lose it at any moment. David Wilmot is also a stand out as Kevin, the extremely scary and unforgivable leader of the terrorist group – his glance alone installs sheer terror. I was genuinely on the edge of my seat at times, and the stakes felt entirely real.

While there are moments of intensity and some good performances, there is also a lot of forgettable banter, and yet another “nothing” performance from Clive Owen. The film moved at an uneven pace, and I did find myself losing interest when the story was focused away from Colette – in particular a sub-plot involving the motivations of MI5 added very little of interest to the story. The muted brown/orange palate of the film gave it the feel of a TV movie rather that something made for cinema.

Overall the film is worth watching for Riseborough’s performance and the slice of Irish history that it portrayals. It’s a decent political thriller, with just enough intensity to keep you invested until the quite shocking end.


By Sam McCosh

The Facts

Director: James Marsh
Writer(s): Tom Bradby (novel and screenplay)
Starring: Clive Owen, Andrea Riseborough, Domhnall Gleeson, Aidan Gillen
Runtime: 101 minute
Release date(s): Australia: October 11 2012