SHADOW DANCER. Starring Clive Owen, Andrea Riseborough, Gillian Anderson, Aidan Gillen, Domhnall Gleeson, Brid Brennan, David Wilmot, Stuart Graham, Martin McCann. Dirceted by James Marsh. 101 minutes. Rated M (mature themes, violence and coarse language).
Andrea Riseborough has already played a young Margaret Thatcher for television, a worker in Made in Dagenham, the infatuated Rose in the remake of Brighton Rock and the Duchess of Windsor in W.E. Here she is the central character and holds the film together, a fine performance.
She plays Collette McVeigh? from a militant IRA family in Belfast. As a child, she has been selfishly but unwittingly responsible for a family tragedy, 1973. Twenty years later, with peace talks getting under way, she is a bomb carrier on the London Underground, part of an angry groups led by her brothers. However, the British government have been shadowing her – and make her an offer she can’t refuse, freedom to be with her son and be a ‘tout’, informer for the British.
Her minder is played in his often serious fashion by Clive Owen. The British head in Belfast is played by Gillian Anderson (doing seriously what she had to do for comedy in Johnny English Reborn).
Action is quite suspenseful at times in this narrow suburban area of Belfast, Collette’s ordinary life and the pressures on her to make a weekly rendezvous, her having to participate in an assassination attempt but escaping, coming under suspicion by a paranoid local boss who thinks she is a tout.
A quiet resolution of the proceedings seems to be emerging when the plot twists, sadly, and the ending is not what we are expecting at all. This is the Troubles in a more modest but deadly 1990s.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out October 11, 2012.