Starring Andrea Riseborough, Clive Owen, Gillian Anderson
I had seen Andrea Riseborough in many good films, including Never Let Me Go, Happy Go Lucky, and even in Madonna’s film W.E.. Shadow Dancer is a small Irish film that makes the most of the small budget and large story. However, it never finds its footing as far as engrossing cinema goes. It’s from documentarian recently turned feature film director James Marsh, who doesn’t do much for the story besides move it along. Perhaps another stumbling block for this film was the screenwriter, who is also the novelist, and between the director and the writer there is a noticeable lack of movie guts. Having studied film making in college, for my first projects, I too just had people walk around, focusing more on their expressions and the settings. But you come to realize that isn’t nearly enough o keep an audience engaged.
When she is apprehended in London in 1993, Colette McVeigh (Riseborough) is given two choices: rot in jail for a failed terrorist attack on the London transit system or spy on her family, who are members of the IRA. Special agent Mac (Owen) with MI5 instantly feels empathy for Colette, who is forced to accompany her brothers in murdering and terrorizing the government. Wanting nothing more than to protect her child, Colette reluctantly chooses one problem for another. Mac promises no one will get hurt or killed but when his own agency reveals a hidden set of agendas, he must fight his own system while protecting Colette.
Moves around like pieces on a chess board but it’s very difficult to get involved with the story.
There are too many problems in Shadow Dancer’s storytelling to warrant anyone getting much of anything out of this picture. Pacing issues slow the film down so that nothing ever seems to happen, even when it does. The dialogue is remarkably uninteresting and soft spoken, and with the dialect you are even straining your ears to hear these characters. Emmy winning actress Gillian Anderson (The X-Files) lends nothing to this film as one of MI5’s top decision makers. Owen finds himself stuck in the types of roles that he is no good at playing. He is given little to do and he looks like he is going to explode from the massive energy he gives off being trapped inside this character who does little more than walk around looking worried.
Riseborough is very beautiful and has a Rachel Weisz quality about her, but it doesn’t surprise me that she blends into all these great films she has co-starred in in the past because, so far in her career, she doesn’t have anything to set her apart from much better European actors. Shadow Dancer moves around like pieces on a chess board but it’s very difficult to get involved with a story that doesn’t know how to flush out its characters beyond giving you a glimpse into their childhood and then presenting you with a horribly mundane story that should work like a thriller.
Doesn’t contain the cleverness or anything cinematic to entice the viewer.