Shadow Dancer is based on the novel by Tom Brady which I have not read. Shocker.
I like political thrillers but there is always something uneasy about watching one that is set so close to home.
PLOT: Collette McVeigh (Andrea Riseborough) is a voluntary member of the IRA but after getting caught by MI5 she becomes an informant to keep her son from being placed into care. Mac (Clive Owen) promises Collette’s safety in return for information on her brothers Gerry (Aiden Gillen) and Connor (Domhnall Gleeson) however his boss Kate Fletcher (Gillian Anderson) is more concerned about her own informant, code named Shadow Dancer. END PLOT
Shadow Dancer is set in Belfast in 1993 towards the end of the Troubles. It is hard to watch any film set during this period without starting a debate over who’s at fault and to its credit Shadow Dancer does a decent job of maintaining a neutral stance.
The film is extremely slow paced and not much happens but it is still compelling viewing. The reveal of Shadow Dancer wasn’t an earth shattering revelation but the business like way in which both MI5 and the IRA dealt with it was unnerving.
Shadow Dancer didn’t hold back in showing that the Troubles were very much a family affair. There were several scenes in which mothers were in the kitchen making tea whilst their sons loaded guns in the living room. Brid Brennan, who played the McVeigh’s mother had very little to say on her children’s activities but her eyes and facial expressions spoke volumes.
There was next to no action but Shadow Dancer did contain some very tense moments. A brief scene showing Connor McVeigh getting water tortured is just topped by an unnamed IRA soldier casually preparing a bedroom for an execution whilst Collette is being questioned about where her loyalties lie in the next room.
The film is low budget but it suited the grey setting. Shadow Dancer wasn’t shot in Belfast and the lack of familiar landmarks was disappointing.
Andrea Riseborough was a more than capable lead with her accent being as spot on as her performance. Credible Northern Irish accents are hard to come by but I didn’t know she wasn’t Irish until after the film had ended.
Clive Owen’s performances are very much hit and miss but in Shadow Dancer he was fine if unremarkable. He was almost too well known for the role as he stuck out in a cast of relative unknowns.
Although his role was minor Aidan Gillen is slowly becoming over exposed but he and the rest of the supporting cast, notably David Wilmot, were all very strong.
Shadow Dancer is a solid film which gets 7.5/10. The local aspect meant that it was a film I needed to see but it was almost too understated to be anywhere near as strong as films such as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.