Shadow Dancer movie poster
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Shadow Dancer movie poster

Shadow Dancer Movie Review

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An active member of the IRA is recruited by MI5 to spy on her own family in the drama-thriller Shadow Dancer. Well acted and mildly alluring, the movie ends with a bang but otherwise remains too subtle for its own good.

Andrea Riseborough plays Collette, who is threatened with 25 years in prison and the loss of her young son if she doesn't help MI5 agent Mac (Clive Owen) bring down others in her own family, who are also members of the IRA. Naturally, she's pretty torn and even gets upset from time to time, even as she betrays everyone she knows and loves. Gillian Anderson also has a small role as another, more ruthless spy.

Shadow Dancer is written by Tom Bradby, who adapted his own novel, and directed by James Marsh, who is best known for the memorable documentaries Man on Wire and Project Nim. The movie looks great, painted with shades of grey and faded colors that not-so-indirectly reflect the characters in the story, a shifty lot whose loyalties are contradictory and therefore never clear.

The film maintains a consistent pace, too, slow but steady. The pacing works, but the story itself is so subdued at times that it never truly lets the audience absorb what is happening. I originally used the word "nuanced," but that wasn't right; the film is pretty straightforward, but Marsh maintains such an even keel throughout that there just isn't much to latch onto. Shadow Dancer is a very character-driven thriller, but the characters are mildly interesting at best; even Collette's dilemma never really hooked me.

Nevertheless, everything that occurs in the story builds toward the brief but satisfyingly abrupt ending. The movie's climax serves as great contrast to the rest of the story and exemplifies that the slow boil approach Marsh and Bradby took was intentional and properly crafted.

That doesn't mean I have to lavish praise on the movie, however.

Shadow Dancer is a well made movie, but it's a little too slow and too quiet for the average moviegoer. And for me.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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