5 July 2013 | gradyharp
'Is this just because she has a pretty face?',
SHADOW DANCER (definition: a dance presented by casting shadows of dancers on a screen) is another film about the conflicts of the IRA during the 1990s. Despite the fact that the theme is a recurring one in films, the core meaning of the conflict remains a bewildering mystery to those not living in Ireland or in England, and that is what makes this film fall short of being excellent - there is much significant information that is not shared with the audience as though we all understand fully both sides of the conflict well enough to muddle through the outlines of the plot that are presented. Tom Brady wrote screenplay based on his own novel and even director James Marsh can't seem to iron it out into a comprehensible story.
The film opens in 1973 in Belfast when young Collette (Maria Laird) is asked by her father to run an errand but she is far more interested in making bead necklaces so she sends her younger brother Sean (Ben Smyth) who is killed outside their home. Jump to 1993 and Collette (Andrea Riseborough), mother of a young son, has become a mole ('tout') for the IRA, and is arrested in the London tube after leaving a bomb in the facility. MI5 (definition: Military Intelligence section 5 is a British intelligence agency working to protect the UK's national security against threats such as terrorism and espionage) Agent Mac (Clive Owen) offers a deal to Collette to become an informer. She accepts the agreement to protect her son and in return Mac offers a new identity to her after a period working for the MI5. Soon Mac learns that his superior Kate Fletcher (Gillian Anderson) is using Collette to protect her mole inside the Irish organization. Mac tries to find the identity of the informer and protect Collette. In the midst of all of this Collette's brothers Connor (Domhnall Gleeson) and Gerry (Aidan Gillen) and their mother (Brid Brennan) become targets for both sides. In the end the true informer is a surprise to everyone and the film documents the impact of terrorism on family and its human cost.
Though there are moments of fine acting, the entire movie seems as though it was shot in a fog: the focus is as blurry as the action. If the audience is completely familiar with the IRA vs. MI5 conflicts, then the film will likely appeal. Otherwise, read up about Irish politics before attempting to understand all the nuances in this film.