This is director James Marsh's first fiction movie. He has hitherto been known as a great documentary maker, including last year's excellent Project Nim. In Shadow Dancer he has put together a film set during the Troubles period of Northern Ireland's history. In it a girl with IRA connections is coerced into becoming an informant for MI5. This leads to several compromising and dangerous situations. While the movie is set within a clear political situation, it isn't really a political film. The focus is specifically on the role of the informer in this powder keg context. At the time there were many people in similar situations and the movie tries to look at both the dangers that they found themselves in and the complex moral dilemmas that effected people on all sides of the conflict, both republicans and British intelligence. As such, Shadow Dancer is about people, as opposed to politics and it doesn't really make any subjective comment on rights and wrongs. It's clear that both sides of the fence act in sordid ways. The distrust amongst the high command on both sides is shown to be similar. Civil war is never a simple affair.
It's a well-acted and intelligently written film. It's low-key and pensive rather than a suspenseful thrill-ride. Perhaps it's a little too slow paced and sober for its own good at times but it does gather steam in the final third and things are wrapped up quite effectively by the end with a series of events that fall into place with tragic inevitability.