Shadow Dancer is about the perpetual violence in Northern Ireland in the 1990s. The movie is a thriller that takes place during that time. It has an interesting story that has a surprising twist in the end. It is based on a 1998 novel by Tom Bradby, who is also the screenwriter of the movie. Directing the movie is James Marsh.
Shadow Dancer shows the ugly truth of the conflict. Clive Owen plays Mac, an MI5 agent, and Andrea Riseborough plays Collette, a reluctant Irish terrorist. Both actors give out compelling performances. Collette meets Mac when she is arrested after attempting to place a bomb on the subway in London.
Collette is not exonerated after she panicked and didn’t set the detonator of the bomb. Mac offers her to be a spy for the MI5 or face jail time and never see her son again. She accepts and goes back to Belfast. She starts sending intelligence to Mac through phone calls and meetings about the activities of Kevin (David Wilmot), a local IRA leader, and her two brothers who work for him.
Kevin becomes suspicious of Collette after she informs Mac of an IRA plot that only she and her brother (Domhnall Gleeson) knew about. Mac finds himself falling for his Irish spy especially after he finds out that his supervisor (Gillian Anderson) don’t want to remove Collette out of her assignment even if she has accomplished her required tasks.
Shadow Dancer is a complex thriller. It doesn’t distinguish who the good or bad guys are. At the start of the movie, Collette as a child witnesses an act of violence. Mac might be the closest personification of a hero to her but he is stained by working with people who are not idealistic.
Right from the start, there’s a sense of danger of someone getting hurt in Shadow Dancer. The movie delivers on the threat and it feels like the filmmakers are not interested on who is disciplined in the end, but on whether they deserve what they get.