Shadow Dancer

There have been a lot of grim films made about the IRA and Shadow Dancer, to an extent, continues in the vein. Life in Belfast is represented in a very earthy way; all Formica and MDF. But James Marsh, the director of the superb Man on Wire and Project Nim, throws, into that mix, the beautiful Andrea Riseborough as the slightly unrealistically glamorous IRA operative turned MI5 informant. On the other side of the ‘unrealistically glamorous’ fence is Clive Owen as the slightly shady spymaster who recruits her. It’s an IRA thriller that spends more time on suspense than horror.

Riseborough has created a niche for herself as an actress who seems to, exclusively, star in films that she is better than (see Made in Dagenham, Brighton Rock, W.E.). Being a critical darling in a films that get little other critical attention is a mixed blessing, and it has certainly seen her star rise, slowly but surely. Once again, she’s fantastic as the single mother torn between family loyalties and the pragmatic decision to support the British intelligence services. She makes bringing a lightness to the role seem effortless when, in reality, it is the most important thing in the movie. Her appeal, to both family and men, is undeniable and that is all credit to the actress.

The rest of the cast are uniformly on fine form (with the possible exception of Gillian Anderson whose presence is unexplained and just plain weird) and consist of a stack of top Irish acting talents like Aidan Gillen and Domnhall Gleeson. The film takes its time to build up the suspense and, sometimes, feels a little too predictable in the conflicts that arrive, but Marsh is also willing to go down unexpected routes and the menace that pervades the film is very genuine. First and foremost, though, this is a thriller and a top notch one at that.

Shadow Dancer represents an interesting spin on the IRA story and one that is refreshingly glamorous and suspenseful.

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Title: Shadow Dancer
Director: James Marsh
Starring: Andrea Riseborough, Clive Owen, Gillian Anderson, Aidan Gillen, Domnhall Gleeson.
Running Time : 101 minutes
Certificate: 15

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