Shadow Dancer (M)

Mature themes, violence and coarse language

UK/Ireland 2012
Director: James Walsh
Featuring: Clive Owen, Andrea Riseborough and Gillian Anderson
Running time: 101 minutes

This explores some of the same territory as the 2009’s Fifty Dead Men Walking, with active IRA volunteers being persuaded to become informants. There’s a lower body count and fewer explosions, but this slow burning spy drama is every bit as nail-biting. The key performances are impressive – Riseborough’s tormented terrorist, torn between loyalty to her son and her cause, and Owen’s spymaster, being tugged in opposite directions by his spy and his master – and they’re ably supported by a supporting cast of terrorists and spooks.

Written by TV reporter Tom Bradby – who was once based in Belfast and here gives himself a cameo as a…you’ve guessed it, a TV reporter – the film feels authentic, capturing the periods, both of the early 1970s with the Troubles in full flow and the early 1990s, when the tension was brewing among those Republicans who were willing to negotiate for peace and those who were determined to fight on.

Director James Marsh, who won an Oscar for the documentary Man On Wire, shows here that he is equally comfortable working in narrative fiction, and sensitively dealing with controversial elements of a difficult time in British and Irish history that still hasn’t quite bedded down, nearly twenty years later.

While this film is firmly set in recent history, it feels like many of the same kind of things could still be happening – if not with Irish Republican groups, maybe with Islamic extremists.

However true to life the events it portrays, it provides food for thought, ratchets up the tension and works as a drama on both a political and a personal level.

Original Review by Jason Korsner – UK Screen Extracted by Gill Ireland

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