From the director of Man On Wire, Shadow Dancer has a slow-burning power and a rising dread that makes for tense viewing.
As Albert Reynolds and John Major work to make the peace process a reality, it's as you were for the IRA. Single mother Colette McVeigh (Riseborough) is on the London tube with an explosive in her handbag, but something clicks in her head - she wants out. Dumping her bag, she makes a run for it but is caught by the tailing MI5. Mac (Owen) is in charge of her case and presents a deal that she can't turn down: turn informant or spend the next twenty years in an English jail. Colette opts for the former and sets about spying on her family's – brothers Domhnall Gleason and Aidan Gillen - activities, as well as the crew of David Wilmot's cold psychotic.
It might rank high on the familiarity charts - 50 Dead Men Walking is only a few years old - but James Marsh, working from Tom Bradby's novel (Bradby adapated the script himself), easily avoids any predictability that might crop up by working hard to allow the audience to lose themselves in the moment. We're expecting a scene with Riseborough on the phone as Martin McCann's killer comes up the stairs to hear a snippet of her coded message, and we're expecting Riseborough to bluff her way out of it, and we get them, but writer and director combine to create a tense atmosphere where anything could happen.
Marsh hasn't made drama for the cinema since 2005's The King but those who have seen that little gem will remember the director's knack of wringing every ounce of tension from his scenes, and he does it effortlessly. Although the tension here is turned down, almost muted, it adds to the reality of it all. It's all suggestion: One scene sees Riseborough taken for questioning by Wilmot and his crew, while in the next room a nameless gunman produces a gun from a hiding place and sets about laying plastic sheeting on the ground.
Of course it's not all Marsh - he has Bradby's tight script and a cast on top form. Riseborough exudes strength behind that pale face and frail form while Owen works hard to make the whiff of sexuality between him and Riseborough work without it leaning over into ridiculous. We could have used more Michael McElhatton (a rule of thumb when it comes to casting is more McElhatton is good McElhatton) and Gillen, though, who are side-lined somewhat.
Review by Gavin Burke | 12:24 | Thursday 16th August 2012 | Movie Review
Thought the film was great after I got preview tickets from entertainment.ie so thanks for that! I wouldn't say anyone under the 20 mark would enjoy it as much as they won't remember seeing these thing son the tv or hearing about them because its not some action packed thriller full of bombs and gun fights. It's a fairly intense film that shows another side of the people living in the North during these times-the people that are starting to listen to their own conscience and want out. I'd give it a 9 out of 10 only because I think there could have been a bit more screen time from Domhnall Gleeson and Aiden GillanPosted 16:59 | Tue 21st Aug 2012
saw the movie the other night too, excellent i must say - highly recommend to anyone with any interest in "the troubles"Posted 21:27 | Tue 21st Aug 2012
Attended the Irish premiere this week. There is no doubt that it's technically fantastic, has spot on dialogue (I'm from Northern Ireland myself) and excellent performances. But I couldn't help but shake the feeling that (despite the director maintaining that he wanted to be even-handed) it is anything but. Before you jump to the conclusion that I'm a close-minded Unionist, I'm not, I'm from and Irish Catholic family. Sure, the IRA are depicted as brutal, paranoid, ruthless and so on but the ending defies belief in its naivety and actually suggests a misplaced sympathy. There are barely any Ulster protestants in the film - any that do feature are reduced to faceless, back-to-the camera, or voices off screen (screaming.) To focus on the main characters perhaps but treated as merely devices non-the-less. This reduces the film to an IRA versus The Brits caper - surprising when you consider how well researched the detail in the rest of the film is. The ending (without spoiling it for anyone) is laughably unrealistic and treats what is still (to this very day) one of the most torturous and unresolved issue of the troubles in a way that appears to deliberately sanitize it and make it more about a heroic gesture. Followed by a nice neat resolution that adds another layer of insult. Ultimately, there are still some things even the IRA were ashamed of doing - and it appears film makers are happy to help them rewrite this particularly nasty element of their activities. The film is still good and ultimately 10 times better than most films about the Northern Irealand conflict. Now all we need is Michael Haneake to make a film set in Northern Ireland - an exploration of denial and national shared guilt to cut through the bull-sh1t.Posted 11:18 | Fri 24th Aug 2012
I really enjoyed Shadow Dancer. It's important to remember that it's a work of fiction. But yes, it would be interesting to see Michael Haneke tackle The Troubles, in the same way that Ken Loach tackled it with Hidden Agenda.Posted 13:51 | Sat 25th Aug 2012
What is the point of this movie ? makes you feels depressed watching it and brings back bad memories of evens that should not have happened . I knew I should have gone to see THE WATCH insteadPosted 20:38 | Sat 25th Aug 2012
I suppose it is because it is our history, that any film about the IRA just seems so real, and this film is no different. You are drawn into it very quickly and the whole things is just so real. It is a good film and worth watching. Having said that, I think that it is not a women's film in general, but more suited to male viewers.Posted 08:30 | Sun 26th Aug 2012
Have no idea why the above poster mikecoughlan suggests that this "is not a women's film". As a woman, I found the film enjoyable and compelling. Would recommend to friends.Posted 23:32 | Sun 2nd Sep 2012
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