Shadow Dancer - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Shadow Dancer Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ April 20, 2014
A captured IRA operative must decide to cooperate with a MI5 officer and betray her family or risk imprisonment.
A slow, stolid, essentially British film, Shadow Dancer is remarkably predictable. Each choice is explored in stereotypical fashion: the MI5 agent talks about the futility of violent resistance and the IRA leverages nationalistic and family loyalty. The performances are good but not extraordinary. Clive Owen is as intense as ever, and Andrea Riseborough is occasionally too stoic to read but not dynamic enough to be worth caring about.
Overall, if there were some surprise at the end, I might look more favorably on the film.
Super Reviewer
½ October 21, 2013
An uninteresting drama that lacks any surprises and whose bland approach makes it emotionally distant and boring, with a plot that drags, characters who are hard to care about and scenes that should be suspenseful but only feel tedious.
Super Reviewer
½ October 5, 2013
A slow-paced, though effective look at a member of the IRA (Andrea Riseborough) and how she is forced into a deal with a sympathetic MI5 agent (Clive Owen) to give information to the agency on her family who is involved in the terrorist organization. Definitely not a film for everyone, but ultimately this is a movie I respect tremendously as it goes for realism over excitement, a risk given the nature of these movies and how many directors would have opted for the high-drama and more explosions option instead to please a wider audience. Instead, director James Marsh tells this story straight, and the result is an effective, interesting look on a spy and how she must keep her cover or risk losing everything in the process, but still struggles with feelings of betraying her family. Riseborough and Owen are both fantastic, and the film is a success given the acting coupled with extremely good writing and directing.
Super Reviewer
½ October 28, 2012
'Shadow Dancer'. A solid thriller centred around sacrifice, set against the bleakness of the IRA. Andrea Riseborough captivates all the way.
Super Reviewer
February 10, 2012
The latest film from James Marsh (one of the most promising directors working today in my opinion) is not one for the average moviegoer. Like one of my favourites of last year, ''Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy'', it requires a lot of patience and is slow-burning. I found ''Shadow Dancer'' to be tense throughout, wonderfully acted and well directed by Marsh.
Super Reviewer
½ April 17, 2015
After Collette(Andrea Riseborough) attempts to bomb a busy London Underground station, she is detained by authorities. At first, it appears that Mac(Clive Owen) just wants to talk with her and share some files and photos with her. That is all in the service of getting her to inform on some of her colleagues who are less than thrilled with the continuing peace process. As leverage, he uses the thought of her son having to travel hundreds of miles to visit her in prison.

As much as car chases, gun fights and explosions can hinder a movie when it wants to have an intelligent discussion about an important subject, the banal and uninspired "Shadow Dancer" proves in slow moving abundance how bad the other extreme can be in sucking all of the oxygen out of the room. In this case, it involves people making life and death decisions and watching as other life changing ones are made without any kind of emotional reaction in the least. In the process, this also ends up wasting the talents of Clive Owen and Andrea Riseborough.
Super Reviewer
½ August 30, 2012
The only commendable aspect of documentarian turned narrative film-maker Marsh's latest is Riseborough's lead performance. She's brilliant as the terrorist torn between her family's politics and the threat of her son growing up without a mother. The rest of the film is reprehensible, particularly when viewed from an Irish perspective. The Irish Film Board seems hell-bent on portraying it's people as idiots, drunks and bombers by contributing to the funding of British productions like "Grabbers", "The Guard", and this thriller which has all the political nuance of a Roy Rogers' western.
The film is written by Tom Bradby, based on his novel. Bradby is a political editor for a British news channel so presumably has some insight into the conflict in Northern Ireland. None of that awareness is evident here, if it weren't for their accents his terrorists could hail from anywhere and represent any random cause. When you're dealing with a real terrorist group their agenda must be acknowledged, whether you agree with it or not. If you're not willing to provide any insight into why these people are willing to commit such violent atrocities then you should be using a fictional organisation rather than being disingenuous to an entire race of people. In Bradby's hands, the IRA have all the depth of the villains from a straight to video Dolph Lundgren movie. There's never any mention of why they have a gripe with the British authorities, everything's played out in simplistic black and white terms. It's akin to how Hollywood portrays the American civil war as good (The North) versus evil (The South) when the reality of course is much more complex. The movie disgustingly attempts to manipulate British viewers with a scene involving the planting of a bomb on the London Underground. For what it's worth, no Irish person has ever detonated a bomb on the Tube but several British people have.
Gone are the days when British films dealt with the subject of Ireland from a remorseful perspective. Not since John Wayne made "The Green Berets" has such propaganda been disguised as entertainment. Being a successful documentary film-maker, Marsh should know the value of representing all sides of a story. If he's not willing to then he shouldn't be making films based on real-life topics. Maybe a straight to video Dolph Lundgren vehicle would suit him better?
April 25, 2013
Good story but forgettable. Its kinda slow. Irish accents are sexy. "Come on clive owne make this movie more fun" i kept saying to myself.
January 15, 2015
Very good little movie with Irish cast. Lesson to be learned : Do not tell a woman what you would not like everyone to know.
March 8, 2014
(March 2014) The story is gripping (some seem to think it's slow but I never thought that). Could be a bit longer and explain a bit more... Acting, especially the antagonists Riseborough and Owen is superb. The series of events towards the end was surprising. Overall, enjoyable 100 minutes.
½ February 1, 2014
I'm not sure what happened to this movie. It barely opened in the United States, and then it was gone. Which is too bad, because it's a pretty fine thriller. Starring Clive Owen ("Children of Men") and Andrea Riseborough ("Oblivion"), among others, "Shadow Dancer" takes us on a journey into the complexities and nuances of the longstanding Anglo-Irish conflict. Owen plays Mac, an MI5 officer assigned to handle Riseborough's Collette - whose family is deeply involved in the IRA - and to turn her into an informer. Directed by James Marsh ("Man on Wire," winner of the 2009 Best Documentary Oscar), the movie features many taut set pieces that leave you on the edge of your seat. Marsh, as a documentarian, knows his way around a handheld camera, and keeps the action constantly in forward motion (without resorting to cheap jitters). If the film breaks down a bit at the end and squanders the audience's goodwill through unnecessary contrivances, it's still well worth watching.
January 23, 2014
Oscar-winning*documentary filmmaker James Marsh (Man on Wire*, The Team, Project Nim) has tried his hand at directing narrative features in the past whose most successful one was part of the quiet yet grim Red Riding serial killer trilogy. Englishman Marsh helmed the middle segment of that series entitled The Year of Our Lord 1980. Marsh stays in the past - while jumping forward a little over a decade - with his Irish Republican Army Belfast-based drama Shadow Dancer that stars Andrea Riseborough (Oblivion, Disconnect, W.E.) as Collette, a failed IRA operative turned desperate MI5 informant who is being bullied and manipulated by government agents to do their bidding by spying on some of her closest friends. Mac (Clive Owen - Closer, Children of Men) controls Collette by dangling the lives of her son and various other family members in front of her ... letting her know the lives of her closest family members depend solely upon her as the IRA would not hesitate in ending their lives if they believed her to be a turncoat. When Kate Fletcher (Gillian Anderson - The X-Files, The House of Mirth) - a demanding new agent - steps into the picture and jeopardizes the long-running operation by requesting even more out of a dangerously frazzled Collette, the single Irish mother who has lost loved ones to the cause no longer knows who she can trust. Game of Thrones' Aidan Gillen and Domhnall Gleeson (About Time, Harry Potter) co-star in this slow moving and unfolding drama - with some very thick accents - that audiences may have a hard time with as there is more drama than action to be found onscreen. While it is an acting showcase for the three leads, audiences probably will want more.
October 27, 2013
Paint dries more quickly and as a cinematic technique the slowness failed. Good cast, good plot line but it just didn't work. If not but for the slowness the ending might have been worth the wait.
September 24, 2013
This spy drama about an MI5 officer and an informant explores the not-so-distant troubled history of secessionist Northern Ireland. Little sustained suspense throughout the movie, compounded with the fact that the atmosphere is always gloomy, makes it a decent le Carré-ish film overall.
½ October 12, 2012
A quietly disturbing look at the choices placed before someone who is caught between two worlds, neither offering harbor.
August 27, 2013
Even though Shadow Dancer moved quite slow, I found it to be intense and so riveting....if that makes sense. The performances are great. Riseborough owns it. And the Harry Potter fan in me was pumped to see a Weasley! (Domhnall Gleeson)
½ August 21, 2013
This was a very slow movie with little reward in the end. The actors were great; I just didn't care about the characters.
½ June 30, 2013
Anchored by a terrifically somber performance from Andrea Riseborough, SHADOW DANCER is one more film about "the troubles" in Northern Ireland. Do we really need another? The film adds little to the oeuvre but its whispering, gentle and sad tone will make you think it's much better than it actually is.
May 4, 2013
It's virtually impossible to tell what chameleonic director James Marsh will do next, but whatever it may be, there's a crackling energy that will undoubtedly course through it. Making his biggest splash with the exhilarating documentary Man on Wire, Marsh displayed his versatility with the slow-burning, moody Red Riding: 1980. He returns to a similarly oppressive, conspiratorial atmosphere with Shadow Dancer, a pot-boiling crime yarn that is engrossing from start to finish.

While Andrea Riseborough is currently making her move towards stardom opposite Tom Cruise in Oblivion, it was here in Shadow Dancer (which debuted at last year's Sundance, when I first caught it) that she first showed signs of greatness. She's the model of vulnerability and personal strength as Colette McVeigh, a young mother living in tumultuous 1970 Belfast. The film hooks you right from the start with a serious of well-staged, compelling sequences that quickly move all of the chess pieces onto the board. Asked by her father to run to the store, Colette instead tasks her younger brother to do it, only for him to return home with a fatal gunshot wound. The guilt on her face is one we'll become accustomed to, and we see it again soon after when an older Colette hits the London subway system with plans to blow it up as part of an IRA plot. The plan is a disaster, and swarmed by MI5 agents, she races through the dizzying tunnels and onto the street, where she is captured and forced to make an impossible choice. Clive Owen is Mac, a steely agent who tells her she can either go to jail for 25 years and lose her daughter forever, or she can turn informant and spy on the IRA. It would be an easy choice, if her entire family wasn't comprised of IRA operatives.

In particular, Colette's older brother Gerry (a fearsome Aidan Gillen) is the leader of the local IRA cell, who rules with an iron fist but senses dissension in the ranks. His paranoia only increases when it becomes obvious someone has been feeding the government information, and along with his brutal lieutenant begins to do whatever it takes to maintain his strangle-hold on power. Within the span of 30 minutes, we're already neck deep in Colette's plight, all of the moral and ethical concerns she must wrestle with. The stakes for her are always front and center due to the anguish on her face, the torment tearing her up from the inside. One wrong move and she could lose far more than just her freedom.

At the same time, she's completely at the whim of forces out of her control. Marsh, so good at finding tension in the quiet moments, creates an air of uncertainty that follows Colette wherever she turns. Her home is a potential death trap; the streets run red with blood, and even those who are supposed to be helping her in MI5 have their own personal agendas. Mac is embroiled in an internal power struggle with his boss (Gillian Anderson) who is working her own assets that threaten to blow his operation out of the water. It shatters the cool, calm veneer he had been putting on, and his attitude towards Colette is considerably more aggressive. It isn't long before all parties are playing their own games in a deadly free-for-all.

This is an intricate, deliberately paced piece of storytelling by Marsh and screenwriter Tom Bradby, adapting his own novel. His familiarity with the characters and their personal struggle allows for a certain sense of freedom and economy of dialogue. There are long stretches where Marsh allows for the gorgeous cinematography to do the talking, especially during one thrilling sequence in the midst of a funeral procession. Riseborough is a haunting figure, who seems to float like a wisp from one tenuous situation to the next. Owen is, as usual, the face of quiet conviction. There's a passionate chemistry between him and Riseborough that is palpable, but doesn't play out as one might expect. Nothing about the film is predictable, for that matter. Even if some may take issue with the pace, there are enough twists, turns, and unexpected bursts of violence to reward those who invest the time. Shadow Dancer is the work of a true professional, an intelligent and enigmatic tale that will leave you wishing there were more espionage thrillers this good.
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