Shadow Dancer (review)

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Shadow Dancer yellow light Clive Owen Andrea Riseborough

I’m “biast” (pro): big fan of both Owen and Riseborough

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

I have not read the source material

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

In Belfast in 1973, young Colette McVeigh loses her little brother to internecine warfare. In London in 1993, grownup Colette (Andrea Riseborough: Brighton Rock) cannot quite follow through with the IRA tube bomb mission with which she has been tasked. Which places her in the hands of MI-5’s “Mac” (Clive Owen: Intruders), who wants her to become a secret informer on her little terror cell, which naturally includes her still-surviving brothers (including Aidan Gillen: Game of Thrones). Alas, it’s all far less exciting than it sounds… and actually, it doesn’t really sound all that exciting reduced to its bare bones. Missing in particular is an understanding of why Colette has soured on what has obviously been a calling for her — this is her story, yet she remains an exasperating mystery. Even the marvelous performances by Owen and the on-the-rise Riseborough are not enough to ratchet up the drama to the level of the totally gripping — a damn shame and something of a puzzler, given that director James Marsh has made documentaries of sharp brilliance (Project Nim, Man on Wire). Perhaps the Tom Bradby novel upon which this is based [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon Canada] [Amazon U.K.] is not suited to the screen? The level of talent onscreen makes it a modest diversion… but it should be so much more.

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Fri, Aug 24, 2012 12:57pm

Not having seen the film or read the book, I’d suggest that a story like this rests all its weight on the compelling character of the traitor: we need to get inside her head and understand why she makes the decisions she does. If that isn’t up to snuff…