Shadow Dancer (2012) Poster

(2012)

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7/10
Gripping, intelligent psychological thriller
rubenm19 January 2013
Throughout the years, the IRA and the 'troubles' in Northern Ireland have been a source of inspiration for countless British and Irish movies. What can 'Shadow Dancer' add to what we already know about this conflict? The answer is: nothing, really. This film isn't about the struggle for freedom, it isn't about catholics and protestants, it isn't even about right or wrong. It's only about suspense. This isn't a political movie, it's a thriller.

In fact, this movie could just as easily have been set in the context of the Italian mafia or a Mexican drugs gang. The story about a young female terrorist who, after a failed bombing attempt, becomes an informant for the authorities to escape a prison sentence, is extremely suspenseful. She lives in constant fear of being discovered, which would almost certainly lead to her execution. 'I am dead', she literally tells her contact at one point.

The film starts off with a clever flash-back, a very intense scene that explains her motivation to become a terrorist. The rest of the film is told in chronological order, with the suspense rising gradually, until the unexpected and dramatic climax.

In a subplot, we see that the British secret service is subject to the same sort of internal discussions, infighting and ego-tripping as the IRA. Clive Owen and Gillian Anderson (nice to see her again!) are fine as secret service persons, but the best acting is done by Andrea Riseborouh as the proud and independent terrorist Collette McVeigh.

The film is also excellent in recreating the atmosphere of the catholic working class neighbourhoods in Belfast (actually, it is shot in Dublin), where terrorism in the 1990's was a part of everyday life. Director James Marsh uses faded colours in many scenes to recreate the rundown streets and interiors.

This is a gripping, intelligent psychological thriller with excellent acting and a plot that will have you hooked from start to finish. I was amazed the IMDb-rating is not higher than 6.6.
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9/10
Excellent film in an empty cinema
michael-dixon2228 August 2012
Based on my experience, the distributors may have committed a terrible misjudgement for they should have made this a film for TV rather than the cinema. There were 4 people in total when we went to watch the film and that was par for the course for the week apparently. The cinema manager suggested it would be pulled pretty quickly.

Such a shame, because it is a fine film, excellent when the scenes are based in Belfast, with ALL the actors who played the Irish parts absolutely first class. You felt you were in Belfast and the tension took you there. Location scenes good.

Less so the part played by Gillian Anderson. She was OK but a bit wooden. The MI5 scenes generally did not get off the ground until near the end when there was a great twist.

Clive Owen was the biggest enigma of the film. I am still not sure if he was OK, average or weak in the part he played. First impressions were could have been done better definitely, but the low-key interpretation may have had some merit. Owen just seemed to drift through it all and when he got angry it fell flat.

I would recommend anyone to go and watch this well-directed film. It is a good story from the writer which needs all the support it can get based on our experience of row after row of empty seats.

People tend to forget their history even that happened in their lifetime. Tragic truth be told.
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6/10
Convincing Thriller on The Troubles
gary-44431 August 2012
The multi-dimensional layers of the Northern Ireland troubles offer rich pickings to thriller writers. Several good books have appeared, but films about the era have yet to find their feet. As with Vietnam War films for the Americans, time and perspective are required before stories stripped of partisan hyperbole emerge. The eponymous book upon which this film is based is written by BBC journalist Tom Bradby who reported from Northern Ireland in the 1990's, the era in which this film is set. With funding from the BBC, Eire and the Lottery Fund the politics was always going to be a problem, however Bradby neatly sidesteps this by producing an apolitical thriller, not a polemic. There are no good guys/bad guys as such, just people responding to a time and period over which they had no control. The Director, James Marsh , directed the acclaimed documentary "Man on Wire". That documentary experience combined with Bradby's journalistic training sets the tone for the film.

National reviews for Shadow dancer have been very good, but should be viewed with some caution. Bradby is a popular figure amongst the journalist community and some of the notices have owed more to the principle of doing a friend a favour, than exercising due critical discipline.

For raw material, The Troubles take some beating. The British Government in 1968 was not that bothered about Northern Ireland, nor were the people of the Mainland, but were forced into upholding the Constitution. British Colonialism was the last thing on British minds. British troops arrived to safeguard catholic lives and property, then became the enemy through no fault of their own. The Catholic population was right to demand equal rights and in the absence of Protestant dominated Stormont Government had no alternative other than to call upon the IRA to defend them. But the 1970's IRA quickly developed into a very different beast to the Michael Collins era IRA, with splinter groups such as the INLA even further removed, mirrored by the Protestant UDA and UVF. Turf wars and criminality soon became as important as politics.The British people really were not concerned about whether Northern Ireland was in , or out, of Britain – but took exception to its soldiers being killed and its cities bombed. Equally, the Eire government was keen to play the united Ireland card for political purposes – but dreaded the day when the practicalities actually came about, as Northern Ireland would then become Dublin's problem, not London's. It is against this backdrop that the film is set.

Shadow Dancer eschews all the aforementioned intrigue in favour of a people, rather than events driven story, and works well because of it. The running time of 100 minutes is tight for a thriller with screen time dominated by Clive Owen as Mac, an MI 5 handler, and Andrea Riseborough as Collette, an IRA volunteer. Both are well cast and convincing, but the intensity of that relationship does not have sufficient screen time which undermines a key dimension of the film. There is little overt action in this story in the form of explosions, violence or chases. Bradby does well to keep the narrative moving, Marsh's grasp of on screen drama is less assured.

The opening quarter of an hour is very strong. We are initially taken back to 1973 when Collette, as a little girl , delegates a shop errand that her father had given her to her little brother, only for him to be killed by a stray bullet in the street. Then in 1993 we see her as a Failed, and captured, London bomber. Dialogue is at a minimum, action, motive and result are implied not overt. So far so good. However the turning of Collette as an informer is a little perfunctory, it is a case of " No way.......oh, alright then." The authenticity and sense of time, fashion, place and dialogue is good, however , presumably because of funding, the locations are in Dublin, not Belfast which robs the spectacle of some of its drama. The "grey" that seemed to pervade the entire city is bafflingly broken by the decision of Collette, working as a spy, to wear a bright red raincoat for her clandestine meetings with Mac. There may have been some symbolic significance in this, but for practical purposes it was risible.

An awkward sub plot involving inter security service rivalry is frustratingly portrayed. Gillian Anderson appears as a senior MI5 Officer for no particular reason other than to sell the film in America for neither she as a character, nor her as an actor, adds anything to proceedings. The internal machinations of the IRA are also under drawn. Gerry, the local commander has to organise operations against the British, funerals, discussions about British Peace proposals, house break-ins , tout hunts, torture and executions in around twenty minutes screen time. A promising and pivotal character suffers as a result.

The denouement to the tale works well in plot terms, and will delight Republicans, leaving the audience guessing as to what had really happened, but is undermined by the lack of characterisation. . Bradby as a journalist is good at the narrative, Marsh as the documentary maker is good at recording it, but as a drama it is good rather than excellent, a criticism more of what it could have been than of what it is not, although I am sure that budget restraints play their part. An IRA funeral confrontation is well set up, but in long shot looks puny and fizzles out. The visceral horror of terrorism is also noticeable by its absence. Eagle eyed viewers will enjoy an on screen news report which features Tom Bradby as the reporter, but with a pseudonym as a tag line. A more experienced director of action and drama, a bigger budget, and a more experienced screenplay writer may yet deliver Bradby the on screen spy thriller success he aims for.
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6/10
'Is this just because she has a pretty face?',
gradyharp5 July 2013
SHADOW DANCER (definition: a dance presented by casting shadows of dancers on a screen) is another film about the conflicts of the IRA during the 1990s. Despite the fact that the theme is a recurring one in films, the core meaning of the conflict remains a bewildering mystery to those not living in Ireland or in England, and that is what makes this film fall short of being excellent - there is much significant information that is not shared with the audience as though we all understand fully both sides of the conflict well enough to muddle through the outlines of the plot that are presented. Tom Brady wrote screenplay based on his own novel and even director James Marsh can't seem to iron it out into a comprehensible story.

The film opens in 1973 in Belfast when young Collette (Maria Laird) is asked by her father to run an errand but she is far more interested in making bead necklaces so she sends her younger brother Sean (Ben Smyth) who is killed outside their home. Jump to 1993 and Collette (Andrea Riseborough), mother of a young son, has become a mole ('tout') for the IRA, and is arrested in the London tube after leaving a bomb in the facility. MI5 (definition: Military Intelligence section 5 is a British intelligence agency working to protect the UK's national security against threats such as terrorism and espionage) Agent Mac (Clive Owen) offers a deal to Collette to become an informer. She accepts the agreement to protect her son and in return Mac offers a new identity to her after a period working for the MI5. Soon Mac learns that his superior Kate Fletcher (Gillian Anderson) is using Collette to protect her mole inside the Irish organization. Mac tries to find the identity of the informer and protect Collette. In the midst of all of this Collette's brothers Connor (Domhnall Gleeson) and Gerry (Aidan Gillen) and their mother (Brid Brennan) become targets for both sides. In the end the true informer is a surprise to everyone and the film documents the impact of terrorism on family and its human cost.

Though there are moments of fine acting, the entire movie seems as though it was shot in a fog: the focus is as blurry as the action. If the audience is completely familiar with the IRA vs. MI5 conflicts, then the film will likely appeal. Otherwise, read up about Irish politics before attempting to understand all the nuances in this film.

Grady Harp
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7/10
A young woman is caught between the IRA and MI-5
blanche-222 February 2014
"Shadow Dancer" from 2012 stars Andrea Riseborough, Clive Owen, and Gillian Anderson. I'm not sure what the situation with this movie was because it only made $400,000.

The movie takes place in Belfast, and in the first scene, a young girl, Collette, is told by her father to buy him some cigarettes. She doesn't want to go, so instead, she sends her little brother Sean.

The action then shifts to 1993, and we see the adult Collette (Riseborough) deliberately leaving her purse in the London tube; as she escapes from the tube, she is arrested. An MI-5 agent, Mac (Owen) offers her a deal -- no prison time if she will become an informant and at the end of her time working for him, a new identity. Because she has a young son, she agrees.

Mac ultimately learns that his superior (Anderson) is using Collette as a red herring to protect her own mole inside the Irish organization. Mac tries to find out who the mole is and remove Collette from a dangerous situation.

This movie is sparse on dialogue and, frankly, action, particularly at the beginning as we see Collette on what seems to be an endless train ride and finally dropping her purse. After that, things pick up. The cinematography is dreary, with Ireland looking like it's one step up from a trailer park in most scenes.

Andrea Riseborough, who can be beautiful and glamorous, is photographed harshly here, and she's excellent as a young woman caught in the nightmare of having to betray her brothers and answer to their trigger-happy leader Kevin (David Wilmot) and to Mac. She is natural and realistic in underplaying the role of a young Irish girl under incredible tension. Owen is good as the protective Mac, tough and persuasive.

The big problem is the lack of family connection, that is, Collette's relationship with her worried mother and her brothers, who are entrenched in a violent world. Shadow Dancer concentrates on the relationship between Mac and Collette, where showing more within the family would have brought us into the film more deeply.

We're led to believe certain things in "Shadow Dancer," and it's not until the end of the movie that we realize what a good script it was, and how well it is directed by James Marsh.

A sober movie showing the impact of violence and stress on one family.
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8/10
another piece of "the troubles"
evastaitz6 November 2013
what an extraordinary story told in a narrative style which keeps you guessing all the way to the final shot. all the performances were terrific, subtle as the story unfolds. i am a big history buff, so that aspect of this movie was a real treat for me personally. as i say, the only thing new is the history we do not know. i would highly recommend this movie to any thoughtful viewer who wants to be informed and entertained. it was truly a pleasure to have happened on this while going through the stacks at my library in the DVD section.

bravo to the actors, author and screenplay writer and a wonderful piece of directing including style and pacing. a job well done, indeed!!!!!!
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6/10
Sombre story about the latter days of the Troubles
Red-Barracuda1 July 2012
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.
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10/10
Taught intellectual thriller
tom-294-10995616 February 2012
This is a great movie from so many angles. At first it has what appears to be a slow tempo but one that sucks you in and has you "biting your fingernails" - yup, without realising it, you're hooked.... and genuinely frightened. Owen and Riseborough are flawless and their characters are addictive. But they aren't the only excellent performances that come out - Colette's brothers and lest I forget, her Mother.

James Marsh is recognised as a serious talent but one is never certain this movie will go down in the States as much as us Europeans may enjoy it. It should do, because it is not a Northern Ireland film per say - its a great thriller.

I read the book and really enjoyed it - but that was a few years ago. With this film, Marsh shows he "got it" and then took it further and, like any great Director - showed the reader there is so much more to it, without in any way veering off course. That is the difference between good and great, for me anyway. I can't wait for his next film - I want more, "now".

Then, there's the book - maybe I'll go and find it on my shelves and get lost in it again. It still stands out as a great read, even if it was a while ago.
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6/10
A Dramatic Thriller Developed in Slow-Pace
claudio_carvalho15 June 2013
In 1993, the IRA member Collette (Andrea Riseborough) is arrested in the London tube after leaving a bomb in the facility. MI-5 Agent Mac (Clive Owen) offers a deal to Collette to become an informer. She accepts the agreement to protect her son and in return Mac offers a new identity to her after a period working for the MI-5. Soon Mac learns that his superior Kate Fletcher (Gillian Anderson) is using Collette to protect her mole inside the Irish organization. Mac tries to find the identity of the informer and protect Collette.

"Shadow Dancer" is a dramatic thriller developed in slow-pace with a good story and a confused screenplay. The situation of Collette is heartbreaking since she has to betray family and friends to protect her son. The performances are top-notch, but there are ellipsis (or cuts in the edition) that are confusing. For example, I did not understand why Collette kisses Mac. My vote is six.

Title (Brazil): "Agente C – Dupla Identidade" ("Agent C – Double Identity")
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6/10
The slow pace takes its toll but still a reasonable character study
SnoopyStyle6 May 2014
Collette (Andrea Riseborough) grew up with the Troubles in Belfast. In 1993, she plants a bomb in the London tube and gets caught. MI5 operative Mac (Clive Owen) gets the single mom to turn. She reluctantly gives Mac some intel and MI5 stage an ambush. The IRA is suspicious and Collette could be in danger. Meanwhile, Mac's boss Kate Fletcher (Gillian Anderson) seems to have her own agenda. Also the burgeoning peace plan is dividing the republicans.

This movie is very low key and slow paced. Also I haven't noticed Andrea Riseborough in her other works. She seems to be very plain and plays her character very close to the vest. The emotions come out only in a couple of scenes. It all gives this movie a sense of realism. However the slow pace does take its toll. The tension is on a slow boil for most of the movie. The suspense is limited because there is no mystery here. There is a big twist in the end but the story generally lays out everything. The only thing left is a character study. Riseborough seems to be a good actress, and it's a functional movie on that basis.
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8/10
Is this just because she has a pretty face
lastliberal-853-25370812 December 2013
With films like In The Name of the Father, Michael Collins, and Hunger, you really have to have a great film about the IRA to get attention. This film not only succeeds as a film that belongs with the others mentioned, but it is really an impressive film.

The lighting, scenery, costumes and photography, and background music all contribute to the film in a way that one expects of a great film about Britain in the 90s.

Andrea Riseborough (Margaret Thatcher: The Long Walk to Finchley), Domhnall Gleeson (Anna Karenina), David Wilmot (Intermission), and Brid Brennan (Dancing at Lughnasa) gave notable performances allowing us to really feel the personal dilemmas and betrayal they experienced.

Good espionage films tend to keep my interest, and this was edge-of-the- seat action.
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6/10
Overall, the film did not impress me.
ThePadraigMoista30 August 2012
Shadow Dancer follows an Irish woman, who has a son. She works for the IRA in the 1990's. When she gets caught attempting to place a bomb on a London subway she must become an informant for the MI5.

Interesting story. I really had no clue about this film, I was just bored and looking for a film to watch. So you can guess I have never read the book so I do not know how closely it follows it. However the author did write the screenplay. Anyway, I thought the film itself was OK. In general, everything felt like it was neutral/ on the line. Nothing really stuck out and there was no real memorable scenes. The film also seemed very slow and dragged out.

The acting from everyone involved was good. Nothing special, but nothing terrible. However, my main complaint would have to be the characters. I didn't feel connected to any of the characters, especially the protagonist , which is the main thing really. I felt the IRA characters were too clichéd and just the same generic IRA men as in every other film with IRA men in them.

Overall, the film did not impress me. However, I wasn't expecting anything special so I suppose it balances it out. I'd give it a solid 6/10. But, gun to my head - would I recommend it? - No. Probably not.
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5/10
Boring
toberwino27 August 2012
This film starts off at snails pace and doesn't pick up much. I wondered when anything interesting was going to happen. When it did, it was so stereotypical it was boring. The 'Belfast' accents were awful to the point that, as a local, I couldn't understand them at times. It was filmed in Dublin but might as well have been filmed in Dubai as the scenery and other aspects of the location was so obviously not Belfast or Northern Ireland. Gillian Anderson was quite wooden and seemed disinterested. I went to see this with high hopes but came away bitterly disappointed. As Belfast folk would say, It's wick. Give it a 'bye ball'.
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6/10
Plausible but listless
paul2001sw-125 May 2017
Andrea Riseborough is very good in 'Shadow Dancer', James Marsh's film about a reluctant IRA informer. I usually think of her as an archetypal English rose, but she plays a tough young Irishwoman with aplomb. The film, however, is extremely low key, especially Clive Owen, whose catatonic performance seems to be what his director ordered, but which adds to the general feeling of listlessness. The plot is nicely judged, but the execution lacks the tension the subject matter should impart.
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6/10
The Slow Pace May Alienate Some
Theo Robertson29 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
After rewatching and enjoying Brit thriller '71 I decided to watch another thriller using the Irish troubles as its background . SHADOW DANCR came and went without any publicity whatsoever typical of many movies produced by BBC Films and the basic plot just seemed like a generic DONNIE BRASCO type plot of someone working undercover in a criminal gang hoping the brown smelly stuff doesn't hit the fan . It's not necessarily a bad idea for a plot and the fact that it has been used so often in thrillers is because it's not a bad idea for a plot and was intrigued as to how the production might bring something new to the oft used basic story

The answer to this is through the use of languer . For the first 15 minutes director James Marsh uses long shot lengths and minimal dialogue to tell the story which I suppose is to give the film a feel of a dream slowly turning in to a waking nightmare . Certainly this is probably preferable to a Michael Bay production with constant fast edits but at the same time it's very divisive and if a potential audience tuned in then tuned out after the first 15 minutes I could understand their motives . , but the Troubles wasn't a conflict involving large piece Stalingrad type battles no matter what Hollywood garbage tries to tell you and so the low key approach is more than justified . Another aspect that the production tries to make it stand out from its peers is simply to have the undercover protagonist a female and mother called Collette

!!!! SUGGESTIVE SPOILERS !!!!

As the story continues it plays out as you'd expect it of the IRA becoming more and more suspicious of having a mole in their organisation .. Perhaps because the informant is female and her MI5 handler is played by Clive Owen then you're expecting a romantic subplot to blossom and to be fair the screenwriter has resisted this . There is a subplot about another informant being protected meaning Collette is being used as the fall guy but when their identity is revealed it's all rather unconvincing and unexplained and seems to be included to bring the film to a stop which probably sums up the rest of the film
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3/10
Not Ready for Prime Time
bob-rutzel-123 August 2013
MI5 Agent Mac (Clive Owen) gives Collette (Andrea Riseborough) a choice: go to prison and lose her son for planting a bomb on English soil or become his informer to take down members of the IRA. She accepts to protect her son, but Mac soon discovers his superior, Kate Fletcher (Gillian Anderson), is also using Collette to protect "her" informer within the IRA. Mac needs to find the identity of that informer.

I like Clive Owen movies, but this one was not ready to come to the gate. When the movie ends there are questions that should have been answered within. Didn't happen. We didn't get an inkling that there was a love relationship between Mac and Collette, yet she spontaneously kisses him at one point and nothing happens thereafter. Why did she do that? How did the IRA know that Kate's informer was the mole who they killed? We had no clue to that. Were some scenes cut that we never saw? The surprise ending regarding Mac made absolutely no sense. Again, perhaps some scenes were cut? Huh?

I believe directors have a responsibility to allow the audience to hear what is being said. When English and Irish accents are involved the men have a great tendency to talk into their chests, talk so fast the road-runner couldn't keep up, whisper in conspiratorial tones that rewinding the DVD many times just exercises the wrist. This doesn't happen with the women actors. We can hear them fine.

The movie centered too much on Collette and that led me to believe that Mac was second fiddle in here. He had no control over anything. And, the contentious relationship with Kate, his boss, didn't help matters. James Bond wouldn't allow things to get this out of control (you really wanted Clive Owen to be the next James Bond, didn't you?) When our hero (Mac) loses control, we don't know what to expect anymore. See?

This movie should have been wrapped in suspense and tension but, they were not in evidence.

The best part of the movie was the first 20-minutes. After that it all ran downhill with Collette's side of things. Yes, Andrea Riseborough, as Collette, performed well, but we went to see a Clive Owen movie. Oh, he also performed well, as usual, but his Mac lost control.

I like going to Clive Owen movies. I hope the next one is better. (3/10)

Violence: Yes. Sex: No. Nudity: No. Torture: Yes. Language: Yes, mostly in the beginning.
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8/10
One of "The Troubles" Best
samkan30 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
There have been more than a few films about the Irish "Troubles" ranging from from the idealistic ("The Hunger") to the melodramatic ("In the Name of the Father") to the tragic ("Sunday Bloody Sunday") and the historic ("Michael Collins"). But "Shadow Dancer" shines as a legitimate suspense thriller built upon convincingly realistic circumstances. There's an intro giving us character development, motive, etc., that captivates but in hindsight might be better left out. There's also a brief -and most surprising- romantic interlude that at first seems an unneeded diversion but actually has some impact on the end product. But what's intriguing about "Shadow Dancer" is the gritty, mundane realism of overcast Northern Ireland and depressing Belfast lives. The film is thankfully devoid of emotional screes on British repression, Irish solidarity, sacrifice and loss. Plot knots are skillfully tied. Just a taunt, believable thriller with some minor action sequences made without pomp and upon a modest budget. Would've been plenty more satisfied paying $20 for ticket and popcorn for "Shadow Dancer" than for the mega-plex junk my kids drag me to. Andrea Riseborough is easy on the eyes too.
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7/10
Slow buildup to good ending
LiamBlackburn9 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
After reading some of the reviews here I can see why some didn't like this movie and how it has a 6/10 rating. I think it should be a 7 for sure, and this movie can be really misinterpreted. People who like action bombing crash type movies will not be happy with this since it is not about that. It is a very deep moving film about the Troubles and all the problems in North Ireland. If you know about that history, this movie will resonate with you and you will feel the intensity, the dilemmas facing the characters, the anger, the resentment, the incredulity, that goes with the Troubles. Consider that even today, people are not allowed to have parades in certain parts of North I because riots will break out, it's A PARADE! There is serious animosity between peoples in North I and even South and it is stupid to pretend different. That's why this movie is a real good choice to show anyone young who needs to know their history. Clive Owen did a respectable job, same as most of his roles, that stone faced glare, not giving away much emotion, it works for him. But Andrea Risboraough, who I had only seen in Oblivion was REALLY good. Some other reviewers picked this up too, and they're bang on. I hated looking at her face in Oblivion, that blank pasty cold blue eyed stare ( which was perfect for that role), but in this one it's almost like she has the same stare but there is so much rage and deep sorrow simmering just below the surface. As far as other reviewers complaining that they couldn't understand the Irish accents...maybe you need subtitles, it is hard to understand if you are not used to hearing.
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7/10
Dark Thriller with a startling outcome
JohnRayPeterson22 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is based on the novel by well known journalist (in the U.K.) Tom Bradby, who also wrote the screenplay. It's a dark thriller that runs a mere 100 minutes, unusually short for the genre; but it still manages to work, without as much of the character and relationship development I would have enjoyed seeing expanded. Bradby has had all the firsthand experience and knowledge on the subject, covering the Northern Ireland goings-on in the 1990's. He skillfully wrote a screenplay that is apolitical, yet retains convincing elements necessary for the movie to be a genuine thriller. The cast was well chosen and the ensemble delivers the goods without reproach.

The opening of the movie brings important context to what will follow next in the movie. It 1973 Belfast, during 'The Troubles', we see young Collette witness the tragedy of the times when her younger brother is killed, collateral damage, and how she is moved by the event. Maria Laird who plays young Collette is an actress I look forward to seeing again soon. Then we fast forward to 1993 when Collette, played by Andrea Riseborough, is now an IRA member; she is apprehended when she planted a bomb in the London Underground, but the IRA doesn't know that for sure. Enters Mac, MI 5 agent played by Clyve Owen, who turns Collette informant. Unbeknownst to Mac, Collette's MI 5 mission is to protect a mole they have in the IRA; Kate Fletcher, played by Gillian Anderson, is Mac's superior but she does not share the information about the existence of a mole, which is something he has to dig up himself, if he's to ensure the protection of Collette. The drama then unfolds. The thriller has just one real twist, but it is a startling one at the end.

I have to warn audiences about the very poor audio levelling in the movie. You see, there are two very critical and short pieces of dialogue without which it will be virtually impossible to understand the movie's denouement. So if you see the movie on DVD/BlueRay or some other device that has pause and rewind features, you'll be fine; you can play back and jack up the volume for those two moments, and you'll know I'm sure when those are. I never get how sound editors can miss that sort of stuff, that which can kill the viewing enjoyment. I'm very glad I didn't see this movie at the cinema, but on my big screen at home instead.

Given the running time of the movie, I was happy enough with the key actors' interpretations of their role, but can't help but think how much better I would have like it if some twenty more minutes could have been added. I hope those weren't just cut out for reasons I don't want to speculate about. Of course, you get that I recommend the movie despite that.
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6/10
Too conventional
christophe9230030 July 2013
The film starts excellently by 25 minutes of high level, with surgical, captivating scenes that are the opening scene in Belfast, the subway scene in London and the interrogation. At this moment, one is thinking this might be a great movie.

Unfortunately, the rest is less glorious because the script runs out of steam quite violently and turns to an ultra conventional thriller relying on predictable developments. The rhythm falls simultaneously with the interest for this more than classical plot. The movie therefore ends linearly by a not so surprising unfolding.

Too bad because the beginning was very good and the quality of the mise-en-scène, the cinematography and the cast augured a much more singular movie, despite a theme — the Troubles — already largely depicted.
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7/10
different from other I.R.A. films
antoniotierno11 July 2013
Marsh has directed this IRA drama as a series of small gestures and has found in Riseborough an actress knowing how to do more with less. "Shadow Dancer" assumes a familiarity with history and politics of Northern Ireland keeps emotions so tight that it risks seeming inconsequential. The director overplays the symbolism, with Collette wearing a red coat when working for MI5 and a blue coat when back home. On the other hand, he can direct a funeral procession, with the Catholic mourners seething against a wall of British soldiers, so that the cobblestones feel primed to explode. In this world, death is constantly , all the time. As for love the story's so flinty and close-fisted that, ironically, it doesn't linger in the memory. Clive Owen perfect as usual and more at ease playing an English guy.
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8/10
Intense movie that made me stop breathing, at points
paultreloar7529 August 2012
I thought this was an excellent movie. It created tension in a simple way, it has good performances that make you see why the characters behave as they do, it doesn't spoon-feed you but it does expect you to pay attention. It takes some big political issues (which i can remember living through) and personalises them in a very gripping and emotional story line.

At the end, the audience, all 6 of us, were just sat in our seats stunned. As someone said above, this is a film that should be seen and for some reason doesn't seem to be at the moment. Hopefully, it's a slow burner, cos I loved it.
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1/10
Biggest waste of my time and money ever
richard-varis12 September 2012
OK, basically this is the worst movie I've seen ever, or at least I cannot remember any other movie to come even close to being as bad as this. I would actually rather watch 200 old nuns running a marathon with walkers than to watch this.

The movie could as well have been a silent movie form a time gone by, I literally had to sit and pray for someone to say something to at least keep me awake trough this torture of the human mind. And the plot, or if you even can call it a plot has to have been written by a valium addict that had been chained in the basement of a museum for 10 years. I cannot, and I repeat, I cannot understand how it is even possible to a. make a movie that mentally kills you and b. get funding to produce it.

This movie has to be a practical joke from some movie big-wigs that decided to have fun with us in some kind of a bizarre kinky way.

I urge everyone to not spend your hard earned cash on this junk. I promise that you will have more fun if you read the phone book backwards from z to a.
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6/10
Such a great title for a movie
geileskey14 August 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I remember reading the poster outside my theatre: "Collette McVey - Mother, Daughter, Sister, Spy" and thought here was going to be a tight spy thriller along the lines of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy". I was a little wrong.

Not to do it any injustice, but the film itself feels very much like a typical British Channel 4 'Film4' piece. The title comes from a book of the same name (by Tom Bradbury) and is the codename used by the British for Collette McVey, a senior IRA informant played by the excellent Andrea Riseborough who is pushed into deciding whether to lose her family or betray her loyalty. It's a film about beliefs, betrayal, loyalty, survival and most importantly, the sense of family and how it has an impact on all.

With plenty of grainy photograpy and rather grim, grey scenery (with a lot of blurring camera-work) from the get-go, one thing the film does do is maintain a sense of tension. The problem with this, is that this tension is pretty much the same level throughout the entire movie, and (besides the starting and ending of the film) this steady stream of tension does not particularly keep the viewer on the edge of their seat. In fact about 20 minutes into the movie I was starting to feel…very sleepy. Thankfully I didn't nod off, it's a good film.

Its director James Marsh's (Man on Wire, Project Nim) first foray into fictional filmmaking, so it's forgivable that he was not more merciless at the editing suite to improve film's pacing. The pacing gave no real sense that the character of Collette (Andrea Riseborough) was playing a game of "cat and mouse" with the IRA. It also doesn't help was that she spends the vast majority of the film traipsing around the rather bland scenery of 90's Belfast wearing a striking red duffelcoat. I honestly doubt any IRA informant would really meet their British contact wearing a bright red (and quite distinguishable) coat on a beach and then return home.

Andrea Riseborough's acting is impeccable though, and most certainly the highlight of the movie. Clive Owen however doesn't seem to be quite there. I didn't feel as though his character Mac really had feelings for Collette, so really didn't leave the theatre thinking there was ever going to be any romance between the two. Perhaps this was down to a lack of on-screen chemistry between both actors, or lack of direction by James Marsh? There are also a brief performances by Aiden Gillen and the wonderful Gillian Anderson.

I've heard that the original script by Tom Bradby needed to be re-written significantly for the finale during the filming process, so fans of the book may be disappointed with James Marsh's version.
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8/10
A spy drama and a family drama
freemantle_uk7 September 2012
Last year we saw the historical spy thriller Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy which took a realistic, slow burning approach to the upper echelons of MI6. Shadow Dancer aims to take a similar approach, taking a ground up view.

The year is 1993 and Peace Process is in full swing. Colette (Andrea Riseborough) is a member of the IRA who is arrested by MI5 after a failed bombing of the London Underground. MI5 officer Mac (Clive Owen) gives her a choice, she can be arrested and her young son would be put into care or she can turn informant against her brother, Conner (Domhnall Gleeseon). She choices the latter. But as soon as she turns informant her IRA commanders suspect she is a traitor and she becomes a figure to investigate as Mac tries to protect her.

Shadow Dancer is a slow burning film with the pace to match. This is a film that is far away from the worlds of Bond, Bourne and Mission Impossible and this a film where the aim of MI5 try to stop action happening. Shadow Dancer is also as much a family drama as it is a spy, focusing on Colette's struggle to protect her son, having to betray both her brother and her ideology as mother also try to protect her.

Director James Marsh sets out to show that this is a brutal world of violence, the IRA willing to kill and torture and that is a complex world yet bureaucratic world within MI5. Many of the characters are complex and well drawn, they felt like real in this world and Marsh made sure he did not side or moralise one faction or the other. It is a character driven film and the whole cast were terrific. The highlight was Riseborough, giving a compelling and grounded performance of a woman who needs to protect her family by betraying and a character used by the IRA and MI5. By falling into the spy world she fears for her live and soon forced to explore her dark side as she tries to protect herself. Owen too is great, starting off in an antagonist role but slowly develops as character who wants to be bold a good intelligence officer and protect his agent because of his duty and for the person she is. He is gives a very intense and believable performance. The world of spying, terrorism and Northern Irish society is a very complicated web that is difficult to untie.

Marsh comes from a documentary background and it shows with his camera-work, the slow build up of tension and the great amount of period detail. Marsh does everything he can to draw the audience into the early 90s in a poor working class community, right down little things like the televisions and cars. During the tense scenes Marsh uses hand-held cameras, following Colette in long continuous shots that feel like a document as the action takes place.

There is a side theme during the film between approaches the leadership and the foot soldiers in both the IRA and MI5. There is a divide between the political leadership of the IRA at the time and the foot soldiers lead by Gerry (Aiden Gillian) and Kevin (David Wilmot) who wants to carry on the fight and willing to ignore the leadership who want to negotiate peace. There is a view that some people who do not want peace, that there is only one resolution to their cause: it kept going during the peace process and it is still going on in Northern Ireland. It could easily happen in other situations around the world. The politics within MI5 is played more like a convention spy with the superiors not telling their agent anything and keeping him out of the loop, leading him to undergo his own unofficial investigation. This is a film set in a culture of distrust between Catholics and Protestants and how it infects everything, families, the intelligence services, the politics and hierarchy of IRA.

Shadow Dancer is a very slow film that can turn some off and sometimes a certain piece of information flies by so fast that it is easy to miss and wonder when did this happen. It also do not help that there is a character called Gerry because he can easily be confused for Gerry Adams. But because of its style and themes Shadow Dancer does share similarities to Tinker, Tailor Soldier Spy, Animal Kingdom and Hunger, all films you should check out.
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