Shadow Dancer, the latest from Oscar-winning James Marsh, is a measured yet gripping piece of filmmaking that never drops your attention and leaves you ever-hanging on its beautiful, long, lingering moments.

With its many wordless scenes, we can understand clearly through these moments as the camera holds position on an object, or perhaps someone’s expression. The cinematography is gorgeous and carefully considered, as the light and shadows do indeed weave their wicked dance across the well-composed images, underlining the tone of a sequence. As an audience we do not need to be told much when this world screams its messages to us in perfect silence. When the brilliant score kicks in, the suspense and tension levels arise.

Andrea Riseborough is sublime as Colette McVeigh, the IRA sympathiser given an ultimatum – spend her life watching her boy grow up from behind bars, or become an MI5 informant. Whilst she tries to stay strong and silent, even behind a stony expression her eyes reveal the fear she knows every second of her life. She is absolutely torn, and doesn’t know who to trust or where to turn. Her ideals are not the concern when she has been rumbled by MI5. The only thing she knows is that with the fierce desperation of a mother, she must protect her son. We see glimpses of raw emotion within her – rage and fear – that she so desperately tries to hide from the world.

Kevin Mulville, the IRA leader who suspects something is very wrong within his organisation, is terrifyingly played by David Wilmot who – almost as an antithesis to McVeigh – also controls and centres his rage, with fire burning in his eyes that the local community knows is within him but dares not to rise up to. Around them, everyone is terrified.

Clive Owen is also fantastic as Mac, the steely yet sympathetic MI5 agent who tries with all his might to get Colette out of the mess she’s been brought into for hopes of a better life for her and her boy. He too is torn – torn between the by-the-book life he has known with the organisation and his empathy for a troubled mother.

With its many twists and turns, Shadow Dancer is a very deliberately paced film that offers a different kind of thrill to your usual popcorn fodder. You will be left in anticipation with every wonderfully edited frame.


Vicki Dolley
Vicki Dolley

Strange hybrid of girly-girl and super-geek: a film aficionado, Resident Evil-obsessive, gamer and artist from Norfolk. Infatuated with media from an early age, Vicki spent most of her childhood years on her PlayStation going to war with zombies in a grand mansion, on her GameBoy taming wild Pokémon, and by her TV watching countless videos and learning about all different kinds of film. Vicki now prides in her large collection of DVDs - her favourite directors being Werner Herzog, Stanley Kubrick and 'Beat' Takeshi Kitano - and her collection of games and gaming figurines. She studied BA Film and Moving Production in Norwich.