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Shadow Dancer - Film Review

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by Richard Leathem (subscribe)
Freelance writer. Melbourne based cinephile. Fond of food.
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James Marsh, director of acclaimed docos Man On Wire and Project Nim makes a rare venture into fiction features with Shadow Dancer. Unsurprisingly, a drama which attains a great deal of realism, by way of naturalistic performances and verite stlye camera work.

The year is 1993 and the conflict between the IRA and the British government is at it's peak. The story centres on an Irish woman born into the strife who has pressure exerted on her from both sides of the political divide. With a strong sense of guilt from an event in her childhood, Collette has long succumbed to the expectations from within her family to contribute to acts of terror, but at the same time is cornered into a deal with British authorities which could rescue her, and crucially her son, from the endless violence.

Although set in the 90s, the film has a distinctly 70s feel to it, from the interior set designs to the grainy, colour-drained cinematography which often gives the impression we are viewing proceedings through a thin haze. And strangely, most of the actors have decidedly ruddy complexions. Must be those strong Northern winds.

Despite the high emotional stakes, the drama is played with a measured understatement. Its a film that doesn't so much hit you over the head as steadily increase its grip on your viscera.

Like the story, the characters unravel slowly, and they are portrayed by a uniformly excellent cast. Clive Owen always brings a certain integrity to the screen, and his MI5 agent with a sense of loyalty plays well against Andrea Riseborough's conflicted Collette.

This is a quietly disturbing and depressing experience, but undoubtedly made with great skill. Perhaps a film to be admired rather than loved.

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Why? IRA drama from the director of Man On Wire
Where: At selected cinemas
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