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DVD Review

DVD cover

Shadow Dancer


Starring: Andrea Riseborough, Aidan Gillen, Domhnall Gleeson, Brid Brennan, David Wilmot, Gillian Anderson and Clive Owen
Paramount Home Media Distribution
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 14 January 2013

Colette McVeigh experiences, growing up in Northern Ireland, have led her to fight the British, but when one of her missions goes wrong she is apprehended by MI5. With her family at risk, she agrees to take on Mac as her handler and returns home to spy on her friends and family. If she is caught it will mean death...

Shadow Dancer (2012 - 1 hr, 37 min, 43 sec) is a thriller, directed by James Marsh, from a screenplay by Tom Bradby, who adapted his own original novel. The film stars Clive Owen, Andrea Riseborough and Gillian Anderson. The film won a number of awards on the festival circuit.

Marsh and Bradby have succeeded in doing what many other stories involving the troubles failed to do, to be able to tell the human story behind the conflict without getting side-lined into partisan politics. Although the film begins with Colette, as a child, witnessing the sectarian murder of her young brother, which sets the scene for her own actions in becoming directly involved in the conflict, the rest of the film concentrates almost exclusively on how the conflict became a cancer in Northern Irish society.

The conflict in Northern Ireland was tantamount to a civil war with sometimes neighbours on differing sides of the conflict, intent on killing each other. Inside this conflict families were torn asunder and when Colette’s (Andrea Riseborough) mission goes wrong she faces either twenty-five years in prison or the choice to inform, either option brings its dangers, but it is the danger to her son which finally makes her turn against the republican cause.

The film is much more about the impact on Colette and Mac’s (Clive Owen) relationship; her, a mother trying to protect herself and family, while he is a slightly podgy middle-aged loner who is emotionally drawn to the woman he should be controlling. His over involvement does not impress his boss, played by Anderson.

The tone of the film is muted, Owens barely raises his voice throughout and neither do many of the other members of the cast, the film's tension spends much of its time in delicate balance and the low level approach that the actors have taken not only complements the overall tone, but goes a long way to stretching out the tension.

The three leading actors are excellent in their roles; it’s nice to see Anderson following her stint as Miss Haversham, but the film is ultimately carried by the conviction of Owens and Riseborough. As their relationship develops the audience is very aware of the dangers that this poses for both of them, whether they become lovers is ultimately going nowhere as the two’s behaviour almost guarantees their doom.

For an independent film, with a modest budget, the disc has some good extras, especially the full length commentary with director and writer. Tom Bradby was a TV correspondent in Northern Ireland in the 1990’s and his insight into the troubles and the setting of the film make for a fascinating commentary.

The World of Shadow Dancer (8 min, 43 sec) is your average look behind the scenes at the film's making. You also get the original Theatrical Trailer (1 min, 45 min).

It’s a shame that the film was a slow burner as the craft with which the film is made deserves to be seen by a wider audience. The emotionally charged relationships keep the story a riveting watch, glazed as they are with the imminent threat of violence. Well worth a look.


Charles Packer

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