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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Andrea Riseborough
Clive Owen
Domhnall Gleeson
Aidan Gillen
Gillian Anderson.
Directors
James Marsh.
Screenwriters
Tom Bradby.
Running Time
101 minutes

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Shadow Dancer
Tinker Tailor Soldier Terrorist


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Plot
Belfast, 1993. Having been caught leaving a bomb on London’s Tube network, Colette (Riseborough) is coerced to spy on her IRA brothers (Gillen, Gleeson) by MI5 agent Mac (Owen). But it’s not long before a deadly net closes around her.


Review
Shadow Dancer
Movie spies, it would seem, are undergoing a phase of deliberate deglamorisation. While Ethan Hunt was titting about up the Burj Khalifa, George Smiley soiled his Oxfords on England’s rain-pounded pavements. Upcoming Ben Affleck thriller Argo promises to do for the CIA what Tinker Tailor did for the SIS. Even James Bond seems to be taking the Smiley route, with Skyfall sending him to... the London Underground. Austerity Britain, eh? Now director James Marsh, making a rare non-doc feature (he is best known for the towering Man On Wire and Project Nim), is in on the act with Shadow Dancer, a woman-on-the-inside IRA drama which seems to make the mundanity of real-world spycraft a point of pride.

Colette McVeigh (Andrea Riseborough) is forced to report on her own family, a tight sect of IRA die-hards resisting the end of the Troubles in 1993. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that her scenes are resolutely domestic: backgrounded by faded floral wallpaper and bruised skies, soundtracked by the chink of cutlery and the tattoo of Belfast rain on car roofs. But the MI5 office stalked by her conscience-riven handler Mac (Clive Owen) is even blander — a study in grey, taupe and bevelled edges.

That we should treat this as ‘realistic’ should go without saying, and his impressive cast — the wan, bone-china-delicate Riseborough above all — rise to the challenge. It’s worth noting, though, that Shadow Dancer isn’t based on a true story, but a novel (although writer Tom Bradby drew from his time as a TV reporter in Belfast during the ’90s). Yet the film is crunchingly efficient as a thriller.

Marsh is careful, though, to keep the drama character- rather than plot-driven. How real people behave differs from what we expect from movie characters, and Marsh plays on this. There are herrings here as red as Colette’s raincoat. And, as such, the finale comes as a bit of a face-slap. But on examination it makes sense. People aren’t simple. And neither are great spy thrillers — especially the dreary-looking ones.


Verdict
As beige as an old PC, but beneath the surface the blood pumps bright scarlet. An intelligent and emotionally charged spy drama.


Reviewed by Dan Jolin

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Shadow Dancer
Empire Star Rating

Spoilers and Questions........

I thought this was a solid film which I also found pretty informative. I'm not usually a fan of Clive Owen but I thought he was good in this. I do have a couple of questions for anyone who has seen it. - Did the mother give herself up to protect her daughter? - What was the point in killing Clive Owen. Surely killing a senior police officer would only draw attention to the fact that they had now gone on the run? - At the end were ther brother, sister and her son leaving the IRA for good and g... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by guysalisbury at 09:13, 21 May 2013 | Report This Post


fifty dead men waking RIP OFF

i like jim sturgess and i like ben kingsley They were in a great thriller called 50 dead men walking it was like donne brasco only instead of going undercover in the mafia sturgess was undercover in th IRA .... now we have more or less the same drama here only instead of jim sturgess working for ben kingsley.. it is andrea riseborough working for clive owen ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bill the butcher at 14:09, 01 November 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Shadow Dancer

Simply a very, ], well made film I thought. The prospect of films concerning "The Troubles" usually fills me with dread, sometimes nausea, always apprehension. There's always the potential that they stir up more controversy, perhaps they show a revisionism that glorifies one political persuasion therefore inciting the demonised. Sometimes, it's just because a lot of them are crap, and when a detail goes wrong they're just bloody toe-curling. So it's a better thing in this cont... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by demoncleaner at 17:45, 05 September 2012 | Report This Post


belfast?

good film,altho not shot(no pun) in belfast,as a belfast resident this was easy to spot,more like dublin ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by satan666 at 18:56, 27 August 2012 | Report This Post


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