Starring: Andrea Riseborough, Clive Owen, Gillian Anderson
You may like this if you liked: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Thomas Alfredson, 2011), Farewell (Christian Carion, 2009), The Good Shepherd (Robert De Niro, 2006)
Colette McVeigh (Riseborough) is an active IRA operative who while attempting to plant a bomb on the London underground is caught by MI5. She is taken into a room and told by an MI5 agent called Mac (Owen) she has a simple choice: Spend a very long time in prison not seeing her beloved daughter ever again, or become an informant for MI5 and spy on her IRA member brothers and be given a new life once they are arrested. Colette chooses to become in MI5 informant and goes back to living with her family who she has to spy on and report to Mac once a week.
Shadow Dancer has a great premise and I am intrigued as to what the book is like, as I found the film to be very disappointing. What starts as a very interesting and potentially gripping story just descends into a total anticlimax. The situation that Colette finds herself in is the classic catch 22 situation of a tragic hero in a Greek tragedy. She is damned if she does or damned if she does not.
However, the whole situation appears to be dealt with in an extremely casual manner and there is a total lack of any real intensity or danger. This had the potential to be an edgy, gritty slow burning espionage thriller and it certainly wants to be with its very grey cinematography. However the plot plods along in an extremely predictable way and it becomes extremely hard to care about any of the two characters, despite the fact that all the characters involved are potentially very interesting. This is a shame as Andrea Riseborough is an excellent actress and gives a very committed performance and Clive Owen gives his usual unique brand of Clive Owen earthy charisma. The film itself certainly looks the part and is very well made, but by the time Shadow Dancer reaches its extremely predictable and flat ending, it is extremely hard to care anymore.
In summary, Shadow Dancer has to be described as a huge failure as despite having compelling characters, solid performances and an interesting story, it simply gradually descends into a totally predictable anti climax.