Review: Shadow Dancer (15)

Ostensibly a look at the dying days of paramilitary atrocities in 1990s Belfast as the peace process starts to fall into place; Shadow Dancer is actually a glimpse inside the internecine warfare of warring splinter groups and, specifically, the actions of a reluctant terrorist.

Andrea Riseborough is Colette McVeigh, a single mother who acts as a member of an IRA cell run by Kevin Mulville (David Wilmot). The group also includes her brothers Gerry and Connor so Colette is confused by a mix of familial loyalties and a need to extract herself from the cause they live their lives by. The problem is that it is a cause she no longer believes in.

Caught by the British she is offered a deal: to turn informant if she wants to prevent her son being taken into care.

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Bound by mother love, she agrees. But the IRA’s antennae are twitching and soon Colette is under suspicion.

Based on the novel by former ITV political correspondent Tom Bradby, Shadow Dancer is a late entry in the somewhat played-out genre of dramas about the Troubles.

That is not to say it lacks pace, tension or edge. Bravely it focuses on the metamorphosis of the Republicans’ cause as it shifts from idealism to gangsterism with the McVeighs carrying out random acts of murder.

Director James (The King) Marsh constructs a delicate triangle of intrigue that has as its points the IRA, M15 (in the form of Clive Owen and Gillian Anderson, both supplying extended cameos) and Riseborough, the latter delivering a nerve-shredding performance based on conflict, conscience and the corruptive influence of terrorism.

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A bleak and sombre film that speaks of the loneliness and isolation of those caught up in the Troubles, Shadow Dancer is powerfully paranoid in its depiction of the in-fighting evident on all sides: spook versus spook, terrorist versus terrorist. And nowhere is it given more credence than in the character of Mac (Owen), an individual trapped inside multiple layers of obfuscation and secrets.

Riseborough, as can be expected, brings credibility to her role as mother, daughter, sister and spy. She eschews grandstanding for a deliberately low-key approach that still manages to fulfil the requirements of a schizophrenic life and the confused loyalties that arise. She is, as ever, quite brilliant.

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