I am always pleasantly surprised to find a film take the unexpected narrative route, especially with the large number of films I have seen in my decreasingly brief existence. Shadow Dancer had me thinking I knew what was going to happen at several points, only to take me in another direction. The result was not quite as satisfying as I had hoped, however. This is largely due to the fact that the audience is not permitted to know what the characters are thinking, and often it appears as though they are also uncertain. The result is some spectacular acting from leads Andrea Riseborough and Clive Owen, who are forced to convey much without words beings said, and a coldly distant narrative which never fully allows the audience to care for them.
Set in 1990s, Shadow Dancer opens in
with an aborted IRA terrorist attack by our troubled protagonist, Collette
(Riseborough). Although Collette intentionally neglects to activate the bomb
and seems more entangled in the IRA through family ties than personal belief,
the MI5 officers who capture her waste no time manipulating the woman to become
an informant. Her handler, who she only knows as Mac (Owen) promises that he
will protect her and her son, though this leap of faith asks that Collette also
turn her back on her family in London .
Shadow Dancer is based on the novel by Tom Bradby, who also adapted the screenplay for director James Marsh (Man on Wire). This does play like a story which was likely much better on the page, though strong performances all around make for an engaging 100 minutes even when the story seems aimless. The Blu-ray release includes a behind-the-scenes featurette, as well as cast and crew interviews and a short promotional featurette made for AXS TV.
Entertainment Value: 7/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 7/10
Historical Significance: 6/10
Disc Features: 6/10