By Jess Fenton
8th October 2012

Documentary filmmaker James Marsh (‘Project Nim’, ‘Man on Wire’) is once again tackling real life - but in the form of the fictitious thriller ‘Shadow Dancer’, set in 1990s IRA conflict in Belfast.

After her failed terrorist attack in England, single mother Colette (Andrea Riseborough) becomes an reluctant MI5 informant to protect her son. Guided by her handler Mac (Clive Owen), Colette returns home to Belfast and continues to be a witness and accomplice to her brother’s exploits while betraying her family and beliefs. At the same time, the leader of the IRA is becoming increasingly suspicious of Colette and her time in England as news of a mole surfaces. Things are also moving behind the scenes of MI5, led by Kate Fletcher (Gillian Anderson), that cause Mac to fear for the safety of his charge and question his department and purpose.


Set in a time and place where tensions are already so high, this slow, seething thriller plays on your nerves like no other. Knowing that such events could actually have happened, the story is portrayed so beautifully and delicately by the entire cast. The fear in each and every character, no matter their position within the story, is palpable. The use of creepy audible breathing brings the audience right into the scene with these highly engaging characters, and as their unease rings in your ears, you start to feel your own breath and heartbeat mimic theirs.

This slow, seething thriller plays on your nerves like no other.

The scenes are not rife with gunshots, explosions or shattered neighbourhoods, but rather everyday life and how this time and the events affect families and their way of living. It takes you right smack bang in the middle of a home and family teetering on the edge of inner destruction.

The slow yet revealing twists and turns that lead to the questioning of loyalty, obligation, faith and family are beautiful. The quiet and desperate performance by Riseborough is exquisite and a nice juxtaposition to Owen’s frantic MI5 agent. This is a mentally tormenting, subtle espionage thriller that will leave you gasping and shaking with sensational tingles of shock and intrigue.

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