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Shadow Dancer

Directed by James Marsh

UK, 2012

Cornerhouse, 26 August 2012

Shadow Dancer

Right until the final devastating act of violence – an act at once just and cruel and meaningless – this highly cinematic thriller grabs you fast and doesn’t loosen its grip.

She is mesmerising, Andrea Riseborough in the lead role, playing Colette, a conflicted IRA volunteer; and Clive Owen as Mac, her MI5 controller, is as good.  In fact, all the actors pull their weight – Aidan Gillen is another high calibre cast member – and the claustrophobic ambience of early ‘90s Northern Ireland – cobblestone streets with the houses piled on top of one another, densely smoky pubs, paranoid security precautions – is well conveyed.

For Colette and Mac, and pretty much everyone else, every choice has a cost and involves a betrayal of some kind.  The weight of history is an intolerable burden.  Colette’s survival eventually yields a terrible price and excluded from the political shenanigans for a negotiated peace, she strikes out in revenge.

After the dust settles, you realise that the moral choices have been as complex and compromised as the Northern Ireland situation itself.  That is most likely the main reason why it is such a satisfying film.

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