What an incredible treat. No, I'm not talking about the subtle return of Gillian (X-Files) Anderson (although that was rather interesting too!) No, the treat is James "Man on Wire" Marsh's creation in this film of something that filmmakers dream of making but that the audience will treat like Marmite (Marmite is a ready-made yeast infection people spread on their toast in the UK).
The blurb from the film's original Sundance showing earlier this year was a little confusing for me and I wasn't sure what to expect so I'll simplify without spoiling: Colette (Andrea Riseborough - W.E.) is an IRA agent turned against her own by Mac (Clive 'not as wooden as usual' Owen), an Mi5 guy with at least half a heart.
There's not much else to this - and that's its beauty. Wide open lens apertures and rich contrast paint a dramatic character drama that walks along at a finely crafted pace. This is where the Marmite comes in. On the way out I heard a guy discuss how he fell asleep 5 times. I can see why. The audience is carefully selected. Children of the nineties may not 'get' this movie. The background here is the slow but tense retreat from violence between the IRA and Her Majesty during the late eighties and early nineties. Being familiar with the brutality demonstrated by both sides of the conflict is essential before Marsh leads us into one heart-thumping, tension-laced scene after another.
Supporting Riseborough is some great homegrown UK talent. There nothing to fault here, everyone was pushed to the limit. A special treat is David Wilmot (The Tudors) who floats around scene after scene with a great "nice-guy-but-a-bit-psycho" thing going on. Owen supports in great form and manages to pull off being a spook without any of the usual cheese - in fact I found him to be very watchable in this simple role to which he adds the necessary depth.
The directorial craft on display here is worthy of study by filmmakers, as are the cinematography 'tricks' added to heighten the dramatic experience. If you love art and movies, you may love Shadow Dancer. If you love the Expendables, or Bollywood films, give it a miss.
8.5/10 (or 4/10) - average it out if you're in a group!