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Shadow Dancer

May 19, 2013

Shadow Dancer (2012)
Director: James Marsh
Actors: Andrea Riseborough, Clive Owen, Gillian Anderson

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Synopsis: Colette (Andrea Riseborough) – a young mother in Belfast in 1993 – is caught trying to plant a bomb on the London Underground. Mac (Clive Owen) of MI5, threatens to send Colette straight to jail, unless she colludes covertly with him, providing information from inside the IRA and her own radicalised family. When an IRA hit goes wrong, the suspicion falls on Colette’s family…

Review: This is a taut and gripping micro-drama which perhaps isn’t intended to provoke too much wider discussion about the specific politics of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, but simply to provide a compelling, classical character-family dissection of its own on-screen scenario.

In some respects, Shadow Dancer is very much from the lineage of Tomas Alfredson’s recent Cold War/Le Carre homage Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. It’s a real directorial exercise in retro trappings and bringing back to life the austere drabness of the times and locale. These stylistics are not mere window-dressing though as the story seeps out of this studied air of repression, and the claustrophobic atmosphere makes tangible how dangerous the lives are for all the story’s participants, but particularly Andrea Riseborough’s central, compromised IRA operative. The closing scenes, with the ‘Shadow Dancer’ reveal and the twist with Riseborough and Clive Owen’s characters’ fates, are compellingly done. (May 2013)

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